17 July 2011

Letter to BVA Attorney Who Opposed Aaron Olmsted's VA Claims

Submitted today to Mr. Stephen Reiss, attorney with the Board of Veterans Appeals through the Veterans Law Review, the only email address I could find for him:

Mr. Stephen D. Reiss, Esq.
Executive Editor, Veterans Law Review
Room 841 (mail code 01A), Lafayette Bldg.
810 Vermont Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20420
Reference: Docket 06-42 315, C28 107-548

Dear Mister Reiss,

On 23 August 2007 you successfully represented the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in this case, with Judge Cohn denying the veteran’s appeal. Olmstead had claimed Agent Orange exposure while flying Air Force Reserve C-123K aircraft post-Vietnam, aircraft commonly used during that war for spraying Agent Orange.

In particular, Judge Cohn cited:
“While these planes may be of the type that were used in Vietnam to dispense Agent Orange from 1962 to 1971, there is no evidence that any of the planes on which the veteran flew dispensed Agent Orange in Vietnam or that there was any residual Agent Orange on the aircraft the veteran served on. Further, the veteran has not submitted any evidence that any of the planes on which the veteran served on. Further, the veteran has not submitted any evidence substantiating his contention that there was any residual Agent Orange material on the aircraft he served on. His assertion, standing alone, is not sufficient to show he had actual exposure to Agent Orange, years after it was used in Vietnam.”

I had a heart attack, cancer and heart surgery in April and thus had the time to look into these illnesses and what may have led them to my doorstep. I wondered about the planes which, like Olmsted (whom I don’t believe I ever met), I flew between 1972-1982. It took all of five minutes or so with Google to learn that most of these planes were indeed used for spraying Agent Orange, that in particular, Tail Number 362 (Patches) was used for Agent Orange and was tested repeatedly beginning in 1997 with positive results for presence of dioxin. Just ten minutes with Google provided everything I was concerned with, and FOIAs offered yet more interesting materials.

I learned that the Air Force (in the person first of Major Urlula Moul of the Air Force Office of Environmental Law) recommended keeping this type information “within official channels only.” Further, reports and correspondence regarding these tests and others were surfaced at the Office of the Air Force Surgeon, at Headquarters Air Force Material Command and at the Office of Secretary of Defense.

Mine is the profession of arms, not of law…your rules are confusing and perhaps meant to be so. However, I’m sure I may assume that had you known of the attached documents, you would not have presented to Judge Cohn that Olmsted wasn’t eligible for to service connection because the very documents he needed to have justice before the BVA were being withheld from him by the government.

Judge Cohn’s reasons cited for denial were easily able to be answered with documents withheld by the government, whatever may be the reasons individuals in those government offices had for their actions. No national security was involved at that or any other time regarding this issue. 

Bad acts and hiding evidence of harmful toxin exposure “within official channels” is certainly an effective way to prevent veteran’s Agent Orange claims, but cannot be an ethical, moral or legal justification for denying veteran Olmsted a just hearing from Judge Cohn and an effective and honorable presentation by you yourself. The Judge may have found against Olmsted but it certainly wouldn’t have been for the reasons cited.

(personal portion removed)

May I trust that it continues to be of interest to you, and to the Board of Veterans Appeals, that veterans such as Aaron Olmsted benefit from your commitment to accuracy and truth in all presentations before the BVA, and that if facts such as these are withheld from you by other government agencies, you will make right those wrongs dealt him, Olmsted’s survivors and C-123K/UC-123K veterans who find themselves similarly situated before the BVA?

Sir, help make this wrong right.

Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Medical Service Corps

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