26 April 2012

Victory for US-based Agent Orange Veterans

The US Board of Veterans Appeals in 2011 remanded a veteran's claim which had been denied by the VA, ordering the VA to reexamine immediately, very likely to finally be in favor of the veteran given the language used by the BVA. The vet was a photographer stationed at Ft McClellan, and claimed to have been in areas where Agent Orange was used. VA denied his Agent Orange-presumtive illnesses claim with their usual position that this vet hadn't been in Vietnam and couldn't prove either proximity to military herbicides or exposure to them. Supporting his claim were statements from his supervisor that they'd both been in areas of Agent Orange spraying, such as the golf course, even though the Department of Defense denied such herbicides were used. Further, several details letters from his doctors confirmed the likely association of the illnesses with exposure to Agent Orange, and these were not rebutted by the VA.

VA inquired of DOD about stateside use of herbicides. In their denial of Agent Orange use at Ft. McClellan, DOD stated it MAY have been possible some small areas MAY have been treated with Agent Orange. That wiggle-room was enough to convince the Board of Veterans Appeals that the VA must resolve any question about exposure in favor of the veteran, and the fellow's claim was sent back with specific instructions for expedited investigation.

This is great news. It breaks through the VA's barrier of flat prohibition against successful AO claims outside Vietnam. For C-123 vets, it means even more careful attention must be given our claims by local rating officers.

One solid suggestion from this particular case is that our claims need to be supported with physician statements that our Agent Orange-presumptive illness are indeed, "more likely than not" associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Without such a statement, the doctor's letter merely has weight as to whether or not you have a particular malady.

Click HERE to download a copy of this landmark decision.

1 comment:

  1. I was at Keesler AFB in 1969 when Hurricane Camille came in with a 24 ft wall of water and devastated Gulfport, Ms and the surrounding area. Gulfport was a shipping port for Agent Orange with as much as 15,000 barrels on hand. Our base water was contaminated and we were detailed out for 6 weeks in areas contaminated with AO..We had to drink and shower in the contaminated water. I have developed many Agent Orange related illnesses, with no basis in family health history, which may explain why I entered the USAF healthy in 1969, and was discharged in 1973 sick. I have been turned down for related AO benefits even though my Primary Care Doctor at the VA seems to agree with my exposure, and DOD has identified Gulfport, Ms as a US based exposure site. I have filed a request for an appeal.


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