07 April 2011

DAV Declines Their Help

Well, actually DAV didn't decline...they simply suggested we bring our issue before each individual DAV post, in each state, to see if it floats up to the national level, as their national leadership is barred from action except as directed by resolution of the membership. His suggested approach to even becoming concerned about us would mean years of effort just to get the DAV interested...so it seems a strategy to prevent too much "stuff" like ours getting on their agenda. 

However, they can and will help any individual who applies to them for representation before the VA. A couple weeks back I wrote DAV's national headquarters as well as their Washington D.C. office, and the DC office kindly phoned me. Their representative carefully explained why they can't do anything except work issues approved by their membership.

I kept interrupting the gentleman to try to make the point that we are a group of veterans who might not be healthy enough to stick around long enough for that path to work for us. We parted with friendly good-byes...and great disappointment on my part and obvious relief on his for getting rid of my phone call.

What I'd hoped for was leadership, not buck-passing, on the part of the first veterans' organization I joined, and have been a life member of for more than 19 years. I'd hoped they would offer a letter of support, some strategy, some contacts, some information about AO issues, some encouragement...anything. Anything we can use before this thing is "resolved" by us getting swept under the rug by Old Man Time!  My mistake. I thought I joined DAV to offer help, and get it, as the need surfaced. 

Thank goodness the Vietnam Veterans of America didn't hesitate. Thank goodness Commissioner Linda Schwartz didn't hesitate. Thank goodness the Oregon Health Sciences University didn't hesitate! Thank goodness for friends when you need them.

Some senior folks who've been working this issue before I was painfully brought to focus on it have wisely counseled us to seek a class-action lawsuit. That is certainly an option, yet I fear becoming one of the groups (and there are many) which initiate such a suit and watch millions of dollars in fees and years of litigation pass by without resolution. Perhaps we should get some organization done along such lines, but I remain hopeful (until I get the BIG VA SMACK-DOWN) that we can present a logical and scientific case to the Department of Veterans Affairs and get them to positively evaluate us on an individual basis. I feel that as a class, we're too small to get any pro bono publico representation and we obviously lack the funds. And I feel too many of us lack the time. I want to savor a little victory in my lifetime, not from Heaven's Gates (as I'll get no farther than that, my wife warns!) Maybe we can get some attorney to meet part of the ABA's 50 hours a year guideline by offering advice or review of materials?

NIH Offers Their Thoughts about C-123K Aircrew & Agent Orange

(received from NIH via electronic mail, June 10, 2011). We're grateful for her response, but had hoped for something more supportive on the specific issue of whether being in an Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft would likely have resulted in exposure to dioxin. The best I can figure is that her letter explains that dioxin comes from various sources and the exposure from contaminated UC-123K aircraft is uncertain...even though we simply asked whether there was a likelihood of exposure, not what the contribution of that exposure to "body burdens of dioxins in this population" might mean. The VA requires exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin to be established and the NIH response carefully avoids any position on this.

I am especially disappointed because Dr. Binbaum has a great reputation for being so passionate about the risks to the public of TCDD!

Dear Wesley T. Carter, Major USAF Retired:

We would like to thank you for clarifying your request for our comments on the issues related to dioxin exposures of crewmembers of the Air Force C-123/UC-123K aircraft.  We have focused on the issue of potential Agent Orange and dioxin exposure of the crewmembers.  Human exposures to dioxins occur through contamination of our food, air, soil and dust.  The proportion of exposure from a particular route or source is situation dependent.  For the general population, dietary exposure due to microcontamination of the food supply with dioxins is the predominant route.  There are instances, particularly occupational, where human exposure and body burdens are influenced and increased above background due to contact with dust or contaminated surfaces.  In the case of the crewmembers of the Air Force C-123/UC-123K aircraft, there may have been occupational exposures to dioxins from contaminated surfaces.    However, the extent of this exposure and its contribution to body burdens of dioxins in this population is uncertain. 


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
& National Toxicology Program

From: Wes Carter [rustysilverwings@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 11:25 AM
To: Birnbaum, Linda (NIH/NIEHS) [E]
Subject: Doctor Bimbaum's letter re: Air Force Aircrews and Agent Orange
2349 NW Nut Tree Lane
McMinnville OR 97128
June 10, 2011

Dr. Linda S. Bimbaum, Director
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences & Nat’l Toxicology Program

Dear Doctor Bimbaum,

Thank you so very much for the courtesy of your response to my request for help regarding Agent Orange exposure by crewmembers of the Air Force C-123/UC-123K aircraft, first used for spraying Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. I certainly appreciate and respect the caution with which you worded your letter…it most certainly is a worrisome issue and I find nothing in your letter with which to disagree.

But, fortunately for veterans of the Vietnam War itself, the Department of Veterans Affairs has resolved any controversy by simply establishing, in accord with law, recognition of the Vietnam veterans’ exposure, however theoretical or hypothetical. They have, in accordance with the law, assigned the principal decision making about Agent Orange exposure to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and have with NAS determined that a specific list of illness (“Agent Orange presumptives”) receive service connection should a veteran contract that illness. Thus, we do not approach you or NIH for any policy decision or research conclusion.

Our hope in turning to you was not to address the issue of whether Agent Orange was harmful or not, nor whether veterans exposed to dioxin and other toxins on Agent Orange directly caused any veterans’ specific illness. The law frees us from that struggle, thank goodness! Neither do we even have to show abnormally high dioxin blood concentrations, as the Department of Veterans Affairs merely asks a veteran to show exposure, and to evidence one of the recognized “presumptives” such as prostate cancer or ALS.

What we seek…what we earnestly implore of you, is a far simpler response: if the Air Force tests have shown the aircraft “heavily contaminated and “extremely dangerous” (in the words of the reports and the Air Force officers who received them) in accord with the reports we’ve already sent you, is it reasonable to state that it is as likely as not that the veteran aviators have been exposed to those contaminants? I am a humble history teacher who ended up in a flight suit for 26 years, but it makes sense to me. If I were around flower pollen, touching it and breathing it suspended in the air of a confined airspace such as an aircraft, I think I’d end up with some pollen in and on me. 

I also feel that is a reasonable and logical conclusion regarding the contaminants left in our planes which we flew for ten years and in which we spent thousands of hours. May I have a simple sentence in agreement or disagreement with this?

Alternately, it would be as effective to state that in your opinion, having read the Air Force test results and the description of the C-123/UC-123 as “heavily contaminated” and “extremely dangerous”, that you would not like to fly in it for ten years and work in it for thousands of hours because of an obvious concern for dioxin exposure. It is too late for us and for our flight nurses…our duty placed us aboard those airplanes for a decade, flying cargo and aeromedical evacuation missions all over the world, and we have experienced what exposures there were, good or bad. That was our duty, nobody knew the situation at the time, but they do now, and we need to give the VA a simple conclusion…we were in an airplane the Air Force itself states was heavily contaminated, and thereby were exposed (or in the VA’s precise wording, “were as likely to as not”) to dioxin. Then they will treat our guys if the specific illnesses are present.

Forgive me if I’ve already sent them to you, but attached are a couple Air Force test results showing the dioxin testing, the press release showing the military had to melt the remaining airplanes into scrap metal ingots because no economical way of decontamination was identified, and a conclusion prepared by the Oregon Health Sciences University in which they did conclude in our favor.

I apologize for turning to you again when you’ve already spent a good deal of time in carefully considering our request. I ask that you narrow our request to the simple issue as I raised it above…that would be all we need to get medical care, and it would not mean NIH establishing policy, not debating rights or wrongs…nothing except a simple answer. And it is not a trick question.

Your suggestion that we turn to our Air Force doctors is a good one which we can’t do. We’re retired and most of us now on Social Security…the Air Force won’t even examine a retiree for Agent Orange exposure. They tell us to turn to the VA. The VA says for us to prove we’ve been exposed to Agent Orange. Somehow I hear in this circle of indecision a new chapter being typed for “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller! Please help us have our chapter turn out okay, won’t you?

Again my thanks.  Help if you can.


Wesley T. Carter, Major USAF Retired

-----Original Message-----
From: Birnbaum, Linda (NIH/NIEHS) [E] <birnbaumls@niehs.nih.gov>
To: rustysilverwings@gmail.com <rustysilverwings@gmail.com>
Sent: Thu, Jun 9, 2011 3:08 pm
Subject: Response to Agent Orange Exposure Concerns
Dear Sirs:

Please see the attached letter of response to your concerns about exposure to Agent Orange and dioxins in service personnel, that was sent to NIH-Listens.

05 April 2011

Agent Orange Background, including VA presumed connections

"Agent Orange" is the name given to a blend of herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1961 to 1970 to remove plants and leaves from foliage in Vietnam that provided enemy cover. The name "Agent Orange" came from the orange identifying stripe around the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored. The U.S. military sprayed other herbicide combinations in the so-called Rainbow herbicides program, identified by the color of their storage drums, including Agent White and Agent Blue. Agent Orange was the blend used most widely. 

Click here to go to the VA's Guide to Agent Orange ClaimVarious resources there are quite valuable, and they give the telephone numbers to request a physical for Agent Orange exposure. For our members who were in Vietnam, they have a presumed exposure to AO. For our members who were not in Vietnam or at one of the identified AO sites, different rules:
"What If I Was Exposed to an Herbicide Outside Vietnam?

Herbicides were used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s. This page contains information from the Department of Defense (DoD) on projects to test, dispose of, or store herbicides in the U.S. Even if you did not serve in Vietnam, you can still apply for service-connected benefits if you were exposed to an herbicide while in the military which you believe caused your disease or injury. If you have a disease which is on the list of diseases which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, the VA requires:
  1. a medical diagnosis of a disease which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange (listed below),
  2. competent evidence of exposure to a chemical contained in one of the herbicides used in Vietnam (2,4-D; 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD; cacodylic acid; or picloram), and
  3. competent medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline for that disease (if any).
If you have a disease which is not on the list of diseases which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, VA requires:
  1. competent medical evidence of a current disability;
  2. competent evidence of exposure to an herbicide during military service; and
  3. competent medical evidence of a nexus (causal relationship) between the herbicide exposure and the current disability.

Diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure
Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits for diseases that the Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized as associated with Agent Orange & other herbicides:
-- Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy (time limits apply...one year post exposure)
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling and motor weakness.
-- AL amyloidosis
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
-- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers.
-- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (now being expanded to B cell leukemias)
A type of cancer that affects white blood cells. Currently, only chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a "presumptive" disease associated with Agent Orange exposure; but, on March 25, the VA published a proposed regulation to establish B cell leukemias (includes chronic lymphocytic leukemia, hairy cell leukemia and others) as associated with Agent Orange exposure.
-- Diabetes mellitus (Type 2)
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body's inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.

03 April 2011

How the VA Can Help Us NOW!

He said it all last year. When commenting on the addition of heart disease to the AO-presumtive illnesses list, VA Secretary Shinseki explained why he acted in his ruling, despite the impact on the VA's budget and number of patients likely to seek care for what might be illnesses normally coming about with age. He explained that tests have shown greater numbers of the disease among AO-exposed veterans, and the law was clear about his obligation:
The Agent Orange saga also holds a lesson for handling current benefits, he said. “The most important lesson I have learned from this process is that we must track the exposures of our service members to toxic chemicals and the environment earlier,” he said. “Such tracking does not get easier or less complicated as time passes.”
Now is the time for Secretary Shinseki to look over our evidence of Air Force testing of the contamination found in the C-123K/UC-123K fleet. "Heavily contamianted" came back the reports done twenty, thirty years and more after the last spray missions. Air Force tests on Air Force airplanes, Air Force records showing our Air Force missions as Air Force crews...asking for service connection for Agent Orange exposure seems the least we could ask of the Department of Veterans Affairs!

Please write your congressional representatives, as well as presidents of whatever veterans organizations you support, and ask that they bring to the VA a sense of urgency in helping us, and in helping Secretary Shinseki "we must track the exposures of our service members to toxic chemicals and the environment earlier." Now is late enough, but it is all that we can ask.

02 April 2011

Strengthening Your VA Claim

First, never lie. Second, present facts in the manner best suited to support your claims.

There are a lot of facts you can start gathering now, to later hand to a Veteans Service Officer from one of the veteran's groups. In particular, all your medical records.

There seems to be a need for strategy in dealing with the VA. Most VSOs will tell you that your initial application will be denied, but the VA will provide their reasons for doing so, giving the VSO a strategy to meet the VA objections. I feel that offering as strong as possible an initial application is important because there is a good chance you will be awarded at least partial service connection on some issues, but perhaps not on others.

When I prepared my own VA claim years ago I was assisted by the Paralyzed Veteans of America. Their help was excellent, but it was my own idea to get a letter from the PVA's medical director (a retired Navy Medical Corps rear admiral) to support my claim. Hard for the VA to object to that doctor's expert opinion! I also had the idea of getting separate medical opinions on chronic pain, chronic fatigue and other conditions. I had the idea of having my wife, who has a graduate degree in Human Relations Development, to write her own letter detailing as an expert and intimate observer my medical condition and impact on my activities.

All of the VSOs are extremely busy guys, trying hard to meet the needs of Iraqi/Enduring Freedom vets as well as all the rest of us from previous wars. They can use all the help possible from a client they represent. I suggest bringing to them as complete a package of your case as you can formulate. Include a one page summary addressed to the VA stating your claim, the general proofs offered and records attached, and you can do much to get these documents together now, well before you sit down with a VSO.

I recommend filing NOW an FOIA with the Department of Veterans Affairs addressed to your regional office if you have been treated by them before. Search through those documents for supporting materials...I was able to find a note made by a ward nurse that I'd had numb hands and feet following a 1992 surgery at Bethesda, and that buttressed my claim for peripheral neuropathy. I recommend filing now an FOIA for your military medical records, because in there you'll have all your flight physicals, notes of DNIF's, etc...and again, you can pull out supporting documents for submission to the VA.

This weekend's documents search: Some Results!

The Congressional Research Service did a very comprehensive study of the VA and treatment of veterans involved in Agent Orange exposure. Besides detailing various approaches by the different Services, the report clarifies how the VA judges whether a veteran's health problems are service-connected:

I located a decision by the Board of Correction of Air Force Records denying an officer retirement based on crew duties on C-123k aircraft. While the fact of his disability was not at question, the officer's request to have that disability amended to the "instrumentality of war" designation was refused...even though the VA had given him that finding. (bummer!)  
In 2000, the Air Force released a study strengthening the links between Agent Orange and heart disease, diabetes and some other ailments.  
"Presumption of Service-Connection:
Prior to discussing disability compensation for exposure to Agent Orange, it is essential to provide a brief overview of presumptive service-connection. In general, a veteran is entitled to compensation for disabilities incurred during active military service. There are several ways to establish that a disability is service-connected. The application of statutory presumptions is only one way to invoke compensation for a service-connected disability. In the context of VA claims adjudication, a presumption could be seen as a procedure to relieve veterans of the burden to prove that a disability or illness was caused by a specific exposure that occurred during service in the Armed Forces. In other words, the onus is placed on the VA rather than the veteran. Most presumptions are applied to chronic disease or illnesses that manifest after a period of time following service."
The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded service-connection to a veteran exposed to Agent Orange during his service at Anderson AFB, Guam. This is interesting because it is one of the few cases where non-Vietnam veterans won disability claims. The logic of the VA was that Agent Orange was stored at the base, was used for local weed control, and the veteran had disabilities associated with Agent Orange. Their language in the finding was:
"The veteran did not serve in Vietnam; therefore, he is not entitled to a presumption of service connection for his diabetes mellitus under the aforementioned law and regulations governing claims for service connection for disabilities resulting from herbicide exposure.  As previously indicated, however, the veteran may be entitled to service connection for this disease on a direct basis if the evidence establishes that his diabetes mellitus is related to the herbicide exposure."
Well, that's us, folks! The C-123K fleet was certainly contaminated when we flew the bird between 1973-1980, and we drank, ate, breathed, touched that poison every minute we were aboard. The Air Force decision to seal (and later, destroy) the surplus 123 fleet at Davis-Monthan was because tests confirmed their contamination. 

01 April 2011

CRSC Center Response - Update on Some Data Located

This morning (19 May 2011) the chief of the Combat Related Special Compensation Branch called to say that unless the VA first awards service connection to a veteran for Agent Orange exposure, the Air Force won't for the purpose of CRSC. A retiree can always file an appeal with the Board of Correction of Air Force Records, but the way the laws for CRSC were passed, the VA rating must come first. Thus, we aim at them first with all the logic of our arguments buoyed by whatever professional opinions we can gather. If you're not familiar with it, CRSC is a way to collect much of BOTH your Air Force retirement and VA disability...complex formulas best left to DFAS! They wouldn't even comment on our Narrative one way or the other.

I located the final report of the Ranch Hand  Advisory Committee. Delivered by an Air Force Colonel Karen Fox, MC CFS, she didn't even mention aircrews nor the use of the aircraft between the Vietnam War's end and the retirement of the C-123K. I read through the entire final report and there is not a single mention of aircrews, either during or post-Vietnam...seem's the committee simply didn't deal with that group of veterans.

Also located literature about childhood leukemia in children of women veterans which is something of concern! I got it from Wikipedia and it is copied below for your review.

Seems like an uphill battle with everyone in authority having failed to consider us...not intentionally, but negligently. That means letters to your representatives, trying to get your state health departments to give an opinion, finding professional societies or at least professionals in the field of toxins and environmental health to give opinions supporting us are vital. I spent Wednesday online with four authorities which my county health department suggested...located the names of people in those agencies and emailed them the narrative and a cover letter. Most larger colleges and universities have departments we can approach for a friendly opinion...chemistry, environmental health, public health, etc....I've written the various departments at our two larger state universities, the Commander, School of Aviation Medicine at Wright-Patterson, the director of the Air Force Museum, the IG at the CDC, the IG at the Secretary of the Air Force, my Congressional representative, various writers including Tom Philpot, scientific societies, state agencies such as Public Health and Environmental Hazards...letters far and wide. 

I expect the next batch of useful documentation to be in two forms:
1. Responses from our requests for professional opinions regarding whether or not we've been exposed, at least to the standard set by the VA
2. Data from FOIAs (seven) filed regarding aircrews, post-Vietnam Agent Orange exposure, storage and disposal of the C-123K fleet, etc.

Everyone should drop a note to Paul Bailey to help fill his database. Please...somebody with good statistical skills kindly offer your help to Paul to make it as effective as possible.

Prayers to Gabby and Dick Matti. Yesterday I received various emails which informed me of the deaths of Colonel Paskovitz and Doc Warner. At different times I worked for each man and admired each of them. Doc Warner even babysat our youngest son several times so my wife and I could go out to dinner while at Westover, and we had a bunch of great dinners at various AMSUS meetings, especially in San Diego. Lou got me to Germany for Reforger when we flew the C-123Ks to Stuttgart, my first overseas deployment after commissioning. I learned so much about leadership from him. My last conversation with General Walker, who is also quite ill, was over coffee in the BOQ as he detailed his prostate cancer suffering and the difficulty dealing with the VA, which had rejected his claim for service-connection.

Does anybody know where I can locate Major General Oates, once our vice commander of the 439th?

Agent Orange
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Agent Orange (disambiguation).

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese agricultural land
Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during theVietnam War from 1961 to 1971.
A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (200 L) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".

Getting VA Benefits - the battle begins!

 VA benefits is often a years-long process, beginning with submission of your paperwork, their denial, your appeal, their award of a small percentage of disability, your appeal of that finding, their increasing your disability percentage...and it goes on.

It takes patience. It takes a motivated Veterans Service Officer (VSO). These individuals are employees of the various Congressionally-chartered veterans organizations like the VFW, DAV, Jewish War Veterans, Blind Veterans of America. Paralyzed Veterans of America and others. Most states also have certified Veterans Service Officers under their State Department of Veterans Affairs, and some states also have county-level VSOs.

VSO's are your pit bulldog. Their mission is to obtain all the state and federal veterans' benefits you're eligible for. No charge to you and it doesn't matter whether you're a member of that or any other veterans organization...they all welcome the opportunity of representing you!

They'll need your DD214, as much other documentation as you may have, and will ask you to sign a power of attorney so they can obtain all your records from the military and the VA, and have the authority to represent you. They aren't attorneys, but they are trained and certified in the complex world of the Department of Veterans Affairs rules and regulations.

Anybody can prepare and submit their own claim. Those folks typically either get denied or, as happened to me, get awarded an insignificant 10% disability rating. It took the dedicated work of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the group I selected to represent me, to get my rating up to the maximum (and even scholarships for my kids!). I cannot over-stress the importance, and the value, and the reassurance, of being represented by somebody who really knows what do do. Often, the VSOs work in the same facility as the VA rating officers, see each other at lunch, walk down the hall to take a break together...and get your case resolved! Remember...this is not your AFSC but it is their career specialty...these guys are good!

Look them up in the phone book, or call the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center and ask for the Veterans Service Organization. They are all easily Googled, and each of their sites has a link to get started with a benefits claim.

But slow down a moment...we're discussing post-Vietnam Agent Orange exposure here. That will be a complex presentation, and will take documents like we've been providing here. At least get the application in, get your Agent Orange Registry exam, and the process has started. Benefits, if eventually awarded, are given from the date your original application is filed.

Final note for now...I've written the president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs for advice on our problems.

23% of VA Claims Mishandled! Double-Check Yours!

23% of Disability Claims Processed Incorrectly

from Military.COM

May 21, 2011 • BEN KRAUSE

In a recent audit of the VA Dis­abil­ity Com­pen­sa­tion Sys­tem at 16 Regional Offices, the VA Office of the Inspec­tor Gen­eral esti­mates that the rat­ing staff incor­rectly processed 23 per­cent of the 45,000 claims inspected.
The IG inves­ti­gated offices through­out the US and focused mainly on the han­dling of the fol­low­ing five types of claims: 1) extra-schedular 100 per­cent dis­abil­ity eval­u­a­tions (TDIU), 2) PTSD, 3) TBI, 4) Her­bi­cide Expo­sure, and 5) Haas (Haas v Nichol­son: “blue water” claims from Viet­nam Agent Orange expo­sure). The processes eval­u­ated ranged from mail han­dling to actual dis­abil­ity per­cent­age awards.

Start to Finish - a VA Appeal Explained

WORKING WITH THE VETERANS SERVICE OFFICER: (also known as National Service Officer or VSO). I'll be stressing in this blog the importance of working with a veteran's service organization from the very start of your application for VA benefits. The process is a lengthy one, taking perhaps a year from start to finish on a good decision, and can take more years if you have to work your claim up the appeals process. Let the professionals do it right, right from the start!

WHY SEEK VA BENEFITS: For many of us, even if we have TriCare as military retirees, VA benefits will be quite important. For instance, at a 20% disability rating a veteran may qualify for voc-rehab...and some have completed graduate or law degrees at the VA's expense and also been paid more each month for doing so. At a 50% disability rating, veterans receive any and all care from the VA, to include hearing aids and glasses. The next "milestone" is 70%, at which point a veteran may qualify for nursing home or long term health care at the VA's expense in either a VA or local civilian nursing home. Further, there can be a significant impact on survivor benefits as well as burial allowances. 

MAY 4 UPDATE ON ACTIVITIES RE: C-123k Agent Orange Exposure: This morning, thanks to referrals from Linda Schwartz, Commissioner for Veterans Affairs in Connecticut, I had responses from the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America as well as from the  VVA's National Chair for Agent Orange issues. They are very concerned about us, and will try to offer useful advice...more as we get it from them.

from VietNow National Magazine
Your VA Appeal
If your VA claim is denied, don't give up. Although the appeals process can be a long road, filled with piles of paperwork and delays, it's nowhere near impossible – and our VA claims expert gives these clues for how to do it.
By Raymond Gustavson
If you feel the VA denied your claim unfairly, you should file what is called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). This is the first stage of the appeals process. From here you can go it alone, or ask a service representative (American Legion, DAV, etc.) to assist you with the paperwork.
First of all, how do you start the appeal’s process? Simply write a letter to the VA stating that you disagree with the decision you received. You don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Just say that you disagree. 

The VA is then obligated to furnish you a Statement of the Case (SOC). This document summarizes your claim, and provides you with an Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals (VA Form 9). If you still believe the VA decision is wrong, the VA Form 9 must be returned in order to perfect your appeal. And it must be received

Current Stats regarding VA Agent Orange Claims


Claims Granted Based on New Presumptive Agent Orange Conditions

From the VA:

Data Current through April 18, 2011
Total Claims Granted

Claims Granted
Compensation Paid
Average Award
Claims Received Prior to October 30, 2010
Claims granted that had been
previously denied (prior to October 2009)
Compensation Paid
Average Award
Claims granted that were received after October 2009 but before the final regulation was published (thru August 30, 2010)Retroactive
Compensation Paid
Average Award

VA Claims for Agent Orange backlog

Many have asked about the VA status on claims for the new AO recognized diseases. From the VA as of 7 February:
Claims GrantedRetroactive
Compensation Paid
Average Award
To see more visit the VA web site Monday Reports and Agent Orange Report Card for more details.
info: Vietnam Veterans of America from Department of Veterans Affairs

Updates - Morning of May 6

1. Identified an especially comprehensive list of tail numbers and histories of the C123k fleet
2. Paul Bailey (for some reason) saved most of his flight orders, so he has records that are fairly complete BY TAIL NUMBER of which C123Ks he flew...because others are named on the same flight orders, that gives them evidence of exposure to specific aircraft...especially Patches which seems to have the most attention given so far for its contamination. Since hearing from Paul, we've had more flow in from Buzz, Al & Gail Harrington and John Harris
3. Conversations with Biomedical Hazard folks at Edwards AFB and Westover (good old Archie), seeking their professional help looking into the contamination, the notification of aircrews, and the effort to up the info in their chain of command.
4. Filed FOIAs with 311 Human Systems Wing (Brooks) & others...all acknowledged receipt
5. Team Effort:
a. Steve Caraker is going to get working on identifying names and emails to make our personnel access more effective. Especially, we need emails of crews from other bases, plus maintenance folks form the 731st.
b. Anita will survey the females as they had a breast cancer surge a while back, and we need to include the full scope of our crewmembers' experiences.
c. Paul Bailey will forward his comprehensive collection of flight orders. I'll remove the Social Security info, and prepare a single PDF so we can all identify which aircraft we flew
d. from everyone...how about more ideas, please????
e: John Harris is collecting flight records from 731st personnel
f. Wes Carter will sit on his duff, like a good MSC!
Off to bed...too many hours typing today!


ps....here are tail numbers from Paul Bailey's flight orders:
361, 362 (Patches), 565,580,581,583,592,607,629,635,663,669,681,706

Agent Orange & AF Retirement - they are linked: "Instrumentality of War"

From the Air Force Directorate of Personnel Programs

The Combat-Related Special Compensation program was authorized by Congress beginning in 2003. What's the value of this program? The compensation is tax-free and ranges from $108 to $2,500+ depending on the percentages approved for eligible retirees. In a nutshell, the basic program eligibility is: 
1. Having served 20+ years Active Duty - OR - Reservist age 60+ with 20+ creditable years (per 10 USC 12731);
2. Are in a retired status;
3. Are receiving retired pay that is offset by VA disability payments (VA Waiver); and
4. Have at least a 10% VA disability rating.
The next step is to look at the retiree's "combat-related" disabilities. Combat-related disabilities include those incurred (with supporting documentation): 
1. While engaged in hazardous service (e.g. flight, diving, parachute duty);
2. In the performance of duty under conditions simulating war (e.g. exercises, field training);
3. Through an instrumentality of war (e.g. combat vehicles, weapons, Agent Orange); or,
4. As a direct result of armed conflict (e.g. Purple Heart).

Most veteran service organizations haven't listed anything on their web site for CRSC and I'm working to bring this to the attention of their national headquarters' staff. Although we can only process applications for Air Force retirees, my staff is available to provide counseling for any retiree with questions. Our objective, with the assistance of veteran service organizations, is to provide visibility of the program similar to what's out there on Agent Orange. In fact, if a retiree has cancer or diabetes II presumptive to Agent Orange (by the VA), those disabilities fall under the instrumentality of war cause listed above. I am offering several links to documents you may be able to post on your site to benefit your members:

General CRSC Information:http://www.defenselink.mil/prhome/docs/crsc_jan04.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions http://www.military.com/Resources/ResourcesContent/0,13964,38374,00.html
DoD CRSC Program Guidance:http://www.dod.mil/prhome/docs/CRSC_Guidance_104.pdf
Application Form with Directions:

We're available to counsel any interested retirees (toll free at 1-800.616.3775 into the AF Personnel Center Contact Center or direct at 210.565.1600) and will expeditiously process all Air Force applications.
Let me know if we can be of further service!

Barry W. Craigen
Chief, Combat Related Special Compensation Branch
USAF Physical Disability Division
Directorate of Personnel Programs
Commercial (fax) 210.565.1101