[T]he government’s interest in veterans cases is not that it shall win, but rather that justice shall be done, that all veterans so entitled receive the benefits due to them.” Barrett v. Nicholson, 466 F.3d 1038, 1044 (Fed.Cir.2006)
02 December 2011
Walkin' the Halls in Washington DC
I spent three days in Washington DC in an effort to work with veterans' organizations as well as to locate the decision maker on the recent VA memo about the C-123 Agent Orange issue.
Success on the first part. I first visited headquarters for the Vietnam Veterans of America. I was fortunate to be routed to their two Board of Veterans Appeals experts who were bewildered...and fascinated...by the VA's memo about us! They point out this is the first instance in which the VA has said a low threshold of Agent Orange should be acceptable regarding veterans' health. This is implied in their paragraph where the VA states that even if we have been exposed via dry dioxin transfer it wouldn't have been "enough" to affect our long-term health! Question...just how much dioxin is "enough"?
Following the VA meeting I traveled to the Disabled Veterans of America. While not as expert about Agent Orange as the Vietnam Veterans of America, they have a much larger staff and their dedication is obvious. The manager I worked with spent an hour with me going over the possible actions we can take. He encouraged working with our congressional representatives to get an amendment to a veterans or defense act to include our "boots on the airplane" position, and offered to bring the issue to his legal staff for further development.
My last stop was with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I was extremely disappointed with their lack of concern. Meeting me in their lobby without even the courtesy of an office visit, their representative said he was confused about Agent Orange issues himself, and had little guidance about it. Their focus is more on current veterans' issues, which I respect, but I told him that our group of 1500 deserves attention from both the VA and the VFW! The sum of their "help" was that we should file our applications for veterans' benefits with their regional offices.
My last day was spent in the archives of the National Air Space Museum where their curators had arranged a collection of literature for me. Unfortunately, all of the highly technical materials were stored elsewhere and in transit to another location, leaving only their collection of popular literature. There was in this the best article I've found summarizing the life and career of the C-123, and I've posted it to our blog to download (34MG). Note: they don't have a C-123 in their collection, but try not to hold that against them..this is still a great place to visit!
The interest from the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine has been gratifying! Their interest in getting to the bottom of the C-123 dioxin contamination is amazing and appreciated. Currently, their request to us is to help identify areas of the aircraft where our maintenance folks found that black "goop" which led to the 1979 inspection team from Warner-Robbins. They also want to find any remaining aircraft, such as the one at the Warner-Robbins museum, to conduct very detailed and more modern scientific testing. Folks, the Surgeon General of the AF hasn't let us down!