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“They don’t treat you, and then they wait for you to get very sick, and then they say you’re too sick for a liver transplant,” says Martin Dames, a decorated Vietnam veteran, who contracted hepatitis C after his combat wounds became infected.

About 19,000 lives are claimed every year by the Hepatitis C virus, and that number is growing, and taking its toll on veterans, some of whom face challenges when seeking treatment for the disease through the Veterans Health Administration. Rarely showing signs until extensive liver scarring occurs, Hepatitis C is a chronic infection in about 80% of cases, and in some cases isn't discovered until it leads to cirrhosis — potentially lethal amounts of scarring of the liver.

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