05 March 2012

Meeting With Senate, VA & USAF is ON!!

Thanks to Senator Burr's staff, on March 8 we'll have a face-to-face in the Senate Hart Building with representatives from the VA's Public Health and Benefits Administration departments, along with the Air Force's Senate Liaison Office. The meeting is to go over the recent letter from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which supported the C-123 veterans' claim for dioxin exposure. We can only hope that VA has spent the month since the ATSDR letter fairly evaluating it.

Helping represent our veterans' concerns will be Dr. Jeanne Stellman of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Stellman brings thirty years of expertise to bear in responding to the VA's inventions of reasons to disqualify our people from legitimate AO-exposure claims.

We also hope to get a summary of the research finished by the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. USAFSAM began with an analysis of twenty years worth of earlier tests, a review of scientific literature about dioxin and exposure routes, and now have an opinion to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs about the C-123's dioxin contamination and the exposure suffered by aircrews and maintainers. No definite word yet as to their conclusion but we hope it will be basically supportive of our claims.

VA has told Senator Burr recently that, except for the Vietnam Veterans boots-on-the-ground population, veterans must prove four things to be eligible for dioxin illness care:
1. proof of contamination
2. proof of exposure
3. an Agent Orange presumptive illness
4. a nexus between the exposure and the AO illness

Friends, once you can get past the VA's Dark Side (the benefits eligibility gatekeepers) you'll find the actual care providers and local administrators a truly caring group. The lines for care at a medical center or clinic may be long but there's usually free coffee, a paperback book donated by local citizens, a reasonably comfortable waiting room, and other veterans to swap war stories with. In the twenty years since my first visit to the Asheville Regional Medical Center to follow-up on Gulf War injuries, I have meet precisely ONE doctor who shouldn't have been touching patients, ONE patient receptionist who cut me short when I asked a question, and everyone else has been just wonderful...in sum, I'm grateful to be their patient.

The biggest concern veterans have, other than getting applications approved, is that the process remains far too long, even for today's new veterans who are counting on care waiting for them should they need it. FYI, my own Agent Orange claim, submitted via their "Fast Track" program, has been been in a full year this month and it is just barely past the half-way mark as per the eBenefits site.
Tail #362

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