A chance encounter with a fellow Marine changed John Hinners’ life forever.
A Marine veteran of Vietnam, Hinners was at the 2021 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in Tampa, Florida, when he and his wife, Barbara, came across benefits advocate Don Inns.
“Barbara saw my DAV shirt and stopped to ask me a few questions about John’s appeal at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA),” said Inns.
Running into Inns not only proved to be timely for the couple but also involved some uncanny coincidences.
“The funny part was, this guy was originally from Cincinnati, just like me. He was also a Marine, and [Barbara] picked him out of nobody, I mean, walking down the hallway,” said Hinners. “She stopped him and asked him some questions. It was just all meant to be.”
Inns informed the couple that as a DAV benefits advocate, he could represent Hinners once DAV assumed his power of attorney and could handle his claim right away.
“He was just right on the ball with everything. I don’t know what we would have done without him,” said Barbara.
Though Inns is in DAV’s national service office in Indianapolis and Hinners lives in Florida, they were able to work together virtually. In reviewing Hinners’ case, Inns discovered that he had experienced significant service-connected health issues related to his service in Vietnam.
When Hinners arrived in Vietnam in 1966, he was originally sent to a tank battalion in Da Nang but soon found himself assigned to postal duty. That new job didn’t keep him out of harm’s way, though. He sustained a substantial knee injury during a mortar attack.
As time went on, his knee was not his only health concern.
“I’ve had three heart attacks. I had three stents [put in],” Hinners noted. “They said that it was Agent Orange that caused it.”
As is prevalent among many veterans from the same era, exposure to Agent Orange led to Hinners’ ischemic heart disease.
He was also fighting post-traumatic stress disorder, the invisible wounds caused in large part by a friendly fire incident.
“You don’t really think of it at the time, but somebody’s trying to kill you,” said Hinners. “That doesn’t go through your head until you’re there.”
A BVA decision dated Oct. 15, 2021, resulted in a rating increase and connected additional health issues to his rating. “Because of DAV’s proactive nature and benefits advocacy training, the claim was completed in 44 days,” said Inns.
Inns’ steadfast efforts also afforded resources to Barbara.
“In diligently seeking an increase in benefits for John, we weren’t going to leave Barbara behind. As a caregiver, I knew she needed to be taken care of too,” said Inns. “Ancillary benefits such as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs also became available for her.”
The Hinnerses may have had a bit of luck on their side when they met Inns at the 2021 national convention, which was originally scheduled to be held in Reno, Nevada.
“Reno is known for its luck,” Inns said. “But not going to Reno can be lucky as well, apparently.”