Vietnam vet loses suit against VA to get benefits in Cuba

HAVANA — A Cuban-American veteran of the Vietnam War lost his lawsuit Wednesday seeking to force the U.S. government to restore the pension that was cut off when he moved back to Cuba.

Otto Macias was 19 when he left Cuba, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a machine-gunner in Vietnam. As he stayed with family in Havana in 1980, he required hospitalization for a mental breakdown and never returned to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs then ended his pension. Lawyer Jason Flores-Williams says that was because of the Unite States' trade embargo on Cuba.

On Wednesday, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge denied Macias' suit seeking the restoration of the pension. The ruling said Macias failed to show he had pursued his case with the secretary of veterans' affairs before asking the courts to intervene.

Macias lives with his brother in a modest apartment in a high-rise in east Havana. He is psychologically stable after years of treatment but suffering from skin cancer and has said he would like to return to the U.S. to visit if he was able.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has declined to comment on the case.

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