05 September 2021
Colorado's veterans with a VA rating of TDIU (same as 100% for VA but not the state) are seeking state disabled veteran property tax exemption benefits. This video explains our campaign.
See more at www. codisabledvet.blogspot.com
11 August 2021
He was preceded in death by his daughter Rae Ann Sutherin and two brothers, Hugh E. "Sonny" Sutherin and Jerry Sutherin.
Those left to cherish Tom's memory include his wife Connie (Myers) Sutherin, whom he married April 18, 1993; daughters Natalie Miller (Terry) of Columbus and Natosha Schaefer (Patrick) of Troy; son Seth Payne (Tracy) of Somerset; five grandsons, four granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren, and many special relatives and friends.
Tom was a graduate of Toronto High School and soon after joined the Air Force where he served his country proudly from 1962-1991 when he retired a decorated Master Seargent. Tom enjoyed golfing, fishing, and camping, but most importantly, he loved spending time with his children and grandchildren. He was a life member of AmVets Post #88, Troy, a life member of VFW Post #5436, Troy, American Legions Post #43, Troy, Troy Eagles #971, life member of Troy Fish and Game, and an original and long-standing member of the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy. Tom was also a member of Masonic Lodge #670 in Canal Winchester, OH.
A Celebration of Life will be held at VFW Post #5436 at 2220 Lefevre Rd. in Troy. Details to follow. Memorial contributions may be given to the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy in the care of the VFW. Arrangements entrusted to Fisher-Cheney Funeral Home, Troy. Condolences may be left for the family at www.fisher-cheneyfuneralhome.
28 June 2021
They said yes, and for us to return the next day with a draft resolution to be voted on at their next national convention. Stellman and I wrote it that night, the Legion executives accepted it, and our resolution was eventually approved as Resolution 128 at the 2012 national convention.
The Legion also led in January 2015 after the Institute of Medicine determined we'd been exposed to Agent Orange aboard our aircraft. Along with the rest of the "Big Six" veterans organizations they insisted that VA Secretary Bob McDonald act on the IOM findings, which he finally did on June 19 2015. 2100 C-123 aircrews and maintainers, and their survivors, got VA Agent Orange benefits that day, with much thanks due the American Legion.
Over the next few years, a number of articles about C-123 veterans appeared in Legion publications. I've gathered them along with Resolution 128 for your review.
In May I asked our local post to initiate a Colorado resolution supporting Gold Star Wives property tax exemption, and it was approved by the entire state organization on June 28. Lesson for me: resolutions are the Legion's slow but steady march towards better veterans benefits.
And again...thanks Legion!
26 June 2021
Here's a 49MB file, a disorganized collection of press releases, clippings, essays and other materials. Not included are AF and VA source documents dealing with C-123 Agent Orange, a file I'll post soon. I call this "disorganized" because materials are just what I came across with more mentions of my own name than anyone else wants to read.
Just scan with any QR code reader:
10 June 2021
|Paul (left) and Wes, San Diego 1967|
Paul was supposed to be best man at my wedding on June 14, 1969, but he instead found himself headed off for Army basic training. While at Fort Bragg he had an incident on the rifle range leaving him but totally deaf for days. He was seen at the base medical clinic but the damage was done: he gradually regained most of his hearing after a week of rest, but then year after year, each ear "rang" louder and louder as Paul's tinnitus developed. And so did his bilateral hearing loss worsen. A lot!This was a half century ago. SP5 Paul Hansen was a traditional Army reservist, serving his initial six months of Active Duty, but no active duty after that to qualify him as a veteran, nothing making him eligible for VA care and benefits. Paul finished his service obligation and began life's journey in earnest.
Because we kept in touch and visited occasionally, I was able to notice Paul's hearing loss and urged him to apply to the VA. In fact, I even filled out his disability claim somewhere around 2014 or so. But Paul is a perfect example of procrastination, and the application lay somewhere, ignored until it got shuffled into some pile of documents never to be seen again. Okay, I'm a nag. Phone call after phone call, "how ya doin" was followed by reminding him to file with the VA.
Paul's hearing loss was significant, but the need was for him to establish veteran status with VA, entitling him to hearing aids but also vital health care for a multitude of other problems. The disability compensation of his claim was an insignificant concern – Paul needed the wide range of VA benefits due disabled veterans and he'd never be one without getting around to submitting his claim.
It got to the point that we both realized it just wasn't going to get done, and with his permission I went ahead and applied to the VA for tinnitus and hearing loss disabilities. The initial obstacle of getting Paul to file finally accomplished, we next moved to finding proof of his Army rifle range problem. I filed a request with the Army's personnel records center in St. Louis and the vital proof of injury medical records were promptly sent to us.
I then had to build an argument that even though he was a traditional from Reservist fifty years back, Paul's injury should entitle him VA care and benefits. Paul wasn't even a proper veteran per the law because he'd never performed a period of active duty after basic training. But have a medical background and I also knew a loophole: the law provides that Reservists and National Guard troops, if they have a disabling injury during their initial active duty or on subsequent training, that injury satisfies the law's requirements for full veteran status. Further, because Paul's training was during the Vietnam war he'd have a wider range of important coverages as a wartime veteran but only if he succeeded in his claim.
I also wrote a lengthy report about the Army's history of troops' hearing injuries in the years before earplugs were even permitted on a rifle range. I quoted similar VA disability claims from other veterans where applicants had claims approved, even years later like Paul. Because of Paul's age and health, his claim needed to be approved on the first pass, not rejected for correction or appeal. Too often, claims have flaws that delay the process a year: we expected Paul would get a small 10% disability award for his hearing but worried about any delays.
This week, VA having approved his claim on the first pass, Paul Hansen became an honored disabled veteran. 40% disabled, not just 10% as I hoped. Another health issue still is under consideration and we're hoping it will put Paul over 50% disability, at which point all his medical care is provided free. Other benefits:
- #List of Benefits for Veterans 40-50% Disabled, plus compensation
- Preventive care.
- "Level 2" VA medical priority group
- Inpatient (hospitalization) services.
- Military PX and commissary use.
- Ancillary services.
- Mental health care.
- Geriatrics and extended care.
- Medical equipment/prosthetic items and aids.
- Old age, low income pension
- Medical travel.
- Veteran-Directed Care program, a budget to help with activities of daily life.
The VA decision on his application came in the mail to announce his disability retroactive to December 2020, the date VA received his claim. Paul, faced with many health issues, is finally entitled to VA hearing aids and so many other benefits.
Here, I'll take a firm grasp on my initial urge to tell Paul what his retroactive check would have totaled if HE'D ONLY DONE AS I SUGGESTED SEVEN YEARS AGO.
A note: Paul's dad's Coast Guard bridge coat saved my life once, literally. But that's another story.
05 May 2021
March was a lucky month for one 439th maintainer, a C-123 veteran whose claim for Agent Orange-related diabetes was granted back in 2015 BUT who wisely pressed further.
His persistence was recognized in January by the VA Board of Veterans Appeals. In Citation A21006352 BVA backdated his claim by a year and gave him twelve more months of retroactive compensation.
You might remember that VA granted C-123 vets our Agent Orange presumptive benefits in June 2015. The legal process was called a "liberalizing regulation," and ordinarily there is no retroactive compensation possible for claims ...almost all C-123 claims date from June 19 2015 on.
But not our happy maintainer! He took advantage of VA making a "clear and unmistakeable error" in his initial claim, and often when a CUE is involved, many date restrictions are waived in the interest of fairness to the veteran.Here's the judge's reasoning about the diabetes, the C-123 and the disability claim:
When C-123 related exposure occurs during reserve or guard service during a period of non-active duty, the effective date is June 19, 2015, the date 38 C.F.R. § 3.307 (a)(6)(v) became effective, which is what allows VA to consider C-123 related herbicide exposure as an “injury” thereby allowing service connection. The law under 38 C.F.R. § 3.307 states an individual who performed service in the Air Force or Air Force Reserve under circumstances in which the individual concerned regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft known to have been used to spray an herbicide agent during the Vietnam era shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent. For purposes of this paragraph, “regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft” means that the individual was assigned to an Air Force or Air Force Reserve squadron when the squadron was permanently assigned one of the affected aircraft and the individual had an Air Force Specialty Code indicating duties as a flight, ground maintenance, or medical crew member on such aircraft. Such exposure constitutes an injury under 38 U.S.C. § 101 (24)(B) and (C). If an individual described in this paragraph develops a disease listed in 38 C.F.R. § 3.309 (e) as specified in paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section, it will be presumed that the individual concerned became disabled during that service for purposes of establishing that the individual served in the active military, naval, or air service.
When C-123 related herbicide exposure occurs during a period of active duty, regular effective date rules apply under 38 C.F.R. § 3.400, because herbicide exposure is being conceded and applied under 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.6, 3.309 (a), and 3.307 (a)(6)(iii) & (iv).
In the October 2015 rating decision, the RO recognized the Veteran’s exposure to C123K aircraft while stationed at Westover Air Force Base as part of the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing and working as an aircraft maintenance specialist in the Air Force Reserves from July 18, 1979 through September 3, 1981, based on military personnel records. However, the RO erroneously failed to apply 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 (b)(2)(ii), which provides the effective date is the date entitlement arose, if claim is received within 1 year after separation from active duty; otherwise date of receipt of claim, or date entitlement arose, whichever is later.
A review of the evidence of record reflects that on February 24, 2014, the Veteran filed both a formal claim for service connection for diabetes mellitus due to Agent Orange exposure. Military personnel records added to the Veteran’s claims file in March 2014 reflect that the Veteran was assigned to 436th Original Maintenance Squad as an aircraft mechanic during his military service. An April 2013 VA examination report reflects a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, which was confirmed in November 2013. See Capri, June 2013; Medical Treatment Record-Non-Government Facility, February 2014. Additionally, the evidence of record contained documentation, provided by the Veteran, showing contaminated C-123 located at Westover AFB being worked on by servicemembers assigned to 439th.
It is undebatable, that at the time of the October 2015 rating decision, 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 (b)(2)(ii) was applicable and the regulation providing a presumption of exposure to herbicide was in effect.
The correct facts, as they were known at the time, were before the RO in October 2015, the regulatory provision then extant was not applied, and the failure to correctly apply the regulation manifestly changed the outcome of the October rating decision. This is not a case of a claim for retroactive benefits but rather the direct application of regulations in effect and evidence of record at the time of the decision. The criteria for service connection was satisfied. The record had evidence of a diagnosis of diabetes in April 2013, and the regulation establishing the presumption of exposure which established an injury during Reserve duty that is presumed to have been caused by that exposure.
The Board finds that the clear and unmistakable error of law committed by the RO in the October 2015 rating decision, compels the conclusion, to which reasonable minds could not differ, that the result would have been manifestly different had the error not been made and the effective date of February 24, 2014 (the date VA received the claim) would have been assigned. Therefore, the Veteran’s request for revision is granted and the October 2015 rating decision is revised to reflect an earlier effective date of February 24, 2014 for the grant of service connection for diabetes mellitus II associated with herbicide exposure.
26 April 2021
Here in Colorado, over 26,000 jobs are created by retired military, vets and survivors! Their pensions pay for health care, food, transportation, consumer items, housing – and their pensions come to Colorado to circulate throughout the economy and multiply about five times over. Citizens, good veterans' benefits are even better for the states offering them. I sure wish Colorado was one of the leaders, but instead, only about 25th among the states.
Follow at www.codisabledvet.blogspot.com
14 April 2021
09 April 2021
That's right! It seems this state legislature simply didn't contemplate the possibility of Colorado soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines dying on active duty. That's why Colorado seem to have forgotten to offer our Gold Star Wives the same widows' benefits as we provide to survivors of totally disabled veterans.
That's unjust and plain WRONG! But not a single widow of an active duty service member
is permitted the Colorado Disabled Veteran's Survivor Property Tax Exemption, a small
exemption saving widows between $400-$600 a year.
Why? Our state constitution's Article X Section 3.5 permits the exemption only to widows of
disabled veterans already in receipt of the benefit. Dying on Active Duty means not being
able to complete the application process – because the service member died first!
This is Really an Amazing and Ridiculous Catch-22!
Why is the small property tax exemption of value to Gold Star Wives?
First, it shows the state's respect and appreciation for the loss borne by these widows and widowers. The partial tax exemption would only save about $400 to $600. It would seem a minor issue to most of us.
But look at this from a Gold Star Widow's perspective. Circumstances vary, but if eligible widows can receive half of the service member's base pay. More than half of all military deaths are E-5 and below. An Army E-5 three-stripe sergeant would have a widow pension of under $2,000 per month.The VA has "Dependents Indemnity Compensation," where if eligible a survivor might receive $1,300 per month. So, at best, the sergeant's widow (or widower) hopes for a modest $39,000 per year.
How far does that go? In Colorado, the average home mortgage cost is $1,700 per month, and with typical associated costs like taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance, a monthly cost of over $2,400 or $28,000 annually. You can do the math – that leaves $916 per month for food, transportation, insurance, clothing.
Summary: Colorado Life did a thorough report on the money necessary to live in Colorado one needs $4,317.68 per month to live in Colorado if there is a mortgage involved. Oops – that leaves our widow short by over $12,000 per year. That's why the paltry $400-$600 partial property tax exemption is important.
17 March 2021
Not sure the best place to post this. My father, Wayne "Coby" Johnson succumbed to his fight with lung cancer on 9/20/20.
He was a pilot and member of the 355th and 356th TAS at Rickenbacker and the 731st TAS at Westover. I would like to thank all of members of this community and this website specifically.
Although he was initially denied his medical claim with the VA we were able to appeal the decision and he received the care and benefits he earned through the last year of his life. Thank you. https://www.wilmingtoncares.com/obituary/wayne-coby-johnson/
Thanks for writing, and God Bless your dad.
15 March 2021
30 May 2020
In addition, there was one claim approved that I disagree with: a paratrooper claimed Agent Orange exposure merely by having jumped from a C-123 during his active duty years. This kind of infrequent, non-professional is not what VA had in mind when the C-123 eligibility rules were published. Lucky guy, but not from any merit on his part.