28 July 2012

Rather than continue releasing various documents we've located about the C-123 contamination, we're "toning down" the blog a tad, hoping for some progress from AF and VA to allow our veterans to be individually considered for our Agent Orange exposure.

So, for a little humor, from Sergeant Andy: http://dnc-charlotte-rvrental.blogspot.com
A check ride ought to be like a skirt:
Somehow short enough to be interesting,
but somehow long enough to cover everything.

Speed is life. Altitude is life insurance.

It only takes two things to fly:
Airspeed, and money.

The three most dangerous things in aviation:
1. A Doctor or Dentist in a Cessna.
2. Two captains in a DC-9.

Aircraft Identification:
If it's ugly, it's British.
If it's weird, it's French.
If it's ugly and weird, it's Russian.

Without ammunition, the USAF would be just another,
very expensive flying club.

The similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots
If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies. 
If ATC screws up, the pilot dies.

The difference between pilots and jet engines: 
The engines usually quit whining when they get to the gate.

New FAA motto: 'We're not happy, till you're not happy.'

If Air Traffic Control screws up, it's called a "System Malfunction," 
If a pilot screws up it's called a "violation."

If something hasn't broken on your helicopter--it's about to.

I give Harris' landing a 9 ................. on the Richter scale. 

Basic Flying Rules:

1. Try to stay in the middle of the air with the pointy end that-a-way.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.
3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance.
of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly in the edges.
4. I forget the other one.

Unknown landing signal officer (LSO) to carrier pilot after his 
sixth unsuccessful landing attempt:
"You've got to land here son . . .. this is where the food is."

Secret C-123 Landing Field:


21 July 2012

VA Publishes The Retroactive Benefit Rules For Agent Orange Claims 
Required By The Nehmer Court Order (from VA announcement Feb 12)

Since 1991, the VA has been required to follow 
special retroactive benefit rules whenever it grants 
a disability compensation claim or a claim for death 
benefits under the VA’s Agent Orange rules. These 
rules are very favorable to Vietnam veterans and
survivors of Vietnam veterans and they are contained 
in an Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of California in the Nehmer class 
action brought by lawyers from the National Veterans 
Legal Services Program.
The VA finally recognized that the retroactive AO-related benefit rules 
are quite complex and that VA regional offices and the BVA need more 
guidance on how to apply the rules. As a result, on August 25, 2003, VA published 
detailed regulations that VA regional offices and the BVA must follow in deciding the 
effective date of benefits awarded under the VA’s AO rules. (The effective date 
of an award controls the amount of retroactive benefits which a Vietnam veteran or a 
survivor of a Vietnam veteran is entitled when the VA grants an Agent Orange claim).
The new regulations also explain that if the person to whom the retroactive benefits is 
owed (that is, the Vietnam veteran or the survivor of a Vietnam veteran who claimed 
death benefits) dies before the VA is ready to make the payment, the VA does not get 
to keep the money; instead, the VA must make the payment to the surviving spouse, 
surviving children, or surviving parent of the deceased, or, if no such surviving 
family member exists, to the individual’s estate.
What follows are:
The new regulation – which is 38 C.F.R. § 3.816; and VA’s detailed explanation of
the meaning of these rules, which the VA published January 28, 2003, when it first
proposed the new regulation.
THE NEW VA REGULATION -- 38 C.F.R. § 3.816
§ 3.816—Awards under the Nehmer Court Orders for disability/death caused by 

a condition presumptively associated with herbicide exposure.           
(a) Purpose. This section states effective-date rules required by orders of a US 

district court in the class-action case of Nehmer v. United States Department Veterans 
Affairs, No. CV-86-6160 TEH (N.D. Cal.).
(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section-
(1) Nehmer class member means:
(i) A Vietnam veteran who has a covered herbicide disease; or
(ii) A surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased Vietnam veteran deceased from

covered herbicide disease.
(2) Covered herbicide disease means a disease for which Secretary Veterans Affairs 

has established a service connection presumption before October 1, 2002 pursuant to 
the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Public Law 102-4, other than chloracne. Diseases are:
(i) Type 2 Diabetes (Also known as type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes).
(ii) Hodgkin's disease.
(iii) Multiple myeloma.
(iv) Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
(v) Acute and Subacute peripheral neuropathy.
(vi) Porphyria cutanea tarda. 

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20 July 2012

Sen. Burr's Leadership = Camp Lejeune Action!

Sen. Burr, Ranking Member Senate Veterans Committee
From Senator Burr (D-NC) announcement today.

Bill to Provide Care to Camp Lejeune Victims Passes the Senate

"I could not be happier to announce that the Senate has finally passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, a bill that will require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have are suffering from diseases and conditions as a result of exposure to toxic well-water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Those of you who are regular readers of this newsletter are already familiar with the back story of this issue.  For those of you who are not, here is some background: For 30 years, from 1957 to 1987, well-water on base at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with chemicals - such as TCE, Benzene, and Vinyl Chloride - that are known human carcinogens, meaning that exposure to them can cause cancer and other health conditions in humans.  To date, this is the largest recorded environmental incident on a domestic Department of Defense installation and the largest water contamination incident in American history.

Despite the fact that many of the Marines and families who lived on base at Camp Lejeune have become sick as a result of exposure to these chemicals, the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps have continually denied responsibility for providing them with the care they need.  Since they have failed to take care of these people who are suffering serious illnesses through no fault of their own, it became clear that Congress would need to pass legislation requiring VA to provide these victims with the health care they need.  

Unfortunately, many people, including young children of these Marines, have died as a result of the toxic exposures and are not here with us to receive the care this bill will provide, but we now have the opportunity to do the right thing for the thousands of Navy and Marine veterans and their families who were harmed during their service to our country and are still fighting for their lives. This has been a long time coming, but I am encouraged that the House will pass this bill before the August recess and it will go to the President’s desk for his signature.  

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released to the public thousands of documents from the Department of Defense related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.  Many of these documents were not previously available to the public.  After so many years of secrecy and cover-up surrounding this issue, this is a big step towards providing transparency and, hopefully, answers to those who so desperately deserve them. "

New England Public Radio - C-123 & Agent Orange Report

Westover AFB Flyers Exposed to Agent Orange:
Though these veterans didn’t know it at the time, about 30 years ago they were flying planes contaminated with Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, DeForge reported. The group of veterans has put together a list of 48 people with diseases that might be linked to Agent Orange, she wrote. DeForge spoke with New England Public Radio explaining the drama of the controversy.

Though these veterans didn’t know it at the time, about 30 years ago they were flying planes contaminated with Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, DeForge reported. The group of veterans has put together a list of 48 people with diseases that might be linked to Agent Orange, she wrote.
DeForge spoke with New England Public Radio’s Kari Njiiri for the radio piece that aired Thursday morning and their conversation highlights other elements of DeForge’s story.
“What the VA’s response was there wasn’t enough contamination to affect the people who used [the planes] afterward. What they essentially are saying is the liquid form of Agent Orange, which they sprayed, was toxic. But once it dried, the VA suggests it was not as toxic and difficult to either ingest, absorb through the skin or inhale,” DeForge told Njiiri.
“We have crew members who are sick. We have crew members who have died … We have people who aren’t sick yet but will soon be,” said retired Air Force Major Wesley T. Carter, who served as an air medical technician and flight instructor and examiner with Westover’s 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron for 20 years and flew in the C-123s from 1974 to 1980. Carter also received an supporting opinion regarding aircrew exposure from Dr. Jeanne Stellman, Professor Emerita of Columbia Univeristy's Mailman School of Public Healh. Stellman is a renowned expert on Agent Orange and veterans' exposure. Another confirming opinion was provided by Dr. Richard Clapp, Professor Emeritus at Boston University's School of Public Health.
“In my opinion, there is every likelihood that you would have been exposed to both airborne herbicides and their contaminants, as well as come into contact with surfaces contaminated by these toxic substances. In my opinion, the extent and manner of exposure is analogous to that experienced by many Vietnam veterans,” Dr. Stellman wrote to Carter. Even further confirmation was received from Dr. T. Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Any veteran who spent one day in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 and contracts an illnesses believed to have been caused by Agent Orange is eligible for medical and disability benefits related to the illness. Some presumptive diseases are prostate cancer, neuropathy, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and leukemia.

16 July 2012

VA Plans to Reduce Claims Backlog: Philpott Reports

New Steps to Reduce VA Claims Backlog
Tom Philpott | July 13, 2012
New Steps Announced to Reduce VA Claims Backlog

The Department of Veterans Affairs is processing more than a million disability compensation claims a year, for veterans of every age and era, whether they served in wartime or during periods of relative calm.
But that has not been enough to keep the claims backlog from rising through current wars and the expansion of compensation eligibility to more medical conditions, particularly for veterans who served in Vietnam.
Claims today are more complex, involving nine to 11 medical issues apiece, on average, versus an average of two raised by claimants after World War II. With claims increasingly complex, with more conditions eligible for payment and with VA still operating an archaic paper-driven process, 65 percent of pending claims remain in "backlog" status.
That means they've been on file more than 125 days without a decision.
The size of the current backlog is 558,000 claims out of an inventory of pending cases just below 900,000. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised two years ago to eliminate the backlog by 2015, and to raise the accuracy rate of claim decisions to 98 percent, up from 84 percent.
A plan to get there is being executed, says VA under secretary for benefits, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Allison Hickey. She and other senior officials explained key elements of it to reporters Wednesday.
They include adopting a new electronic claims processing system VA wide, which still sounds like a Herculean task. But the effort also involves better training for claims handlers and a new operating model for how claims are categorized to move faster through the system on one of three tracks.
There will be an "express" lane for uncomplicated claims of one or two health conditions, and also for "fully developed" claims that include all the evidence and supporting documents needed to process, typically compiled for vets with help from service officers of major veteran organizations.
Another "special operations" lane will handle claims requiring special attention because wounds or illnesses are particularly serious, or the veteran is homeless or suffering a financial hardship.
Finally a "core" lane will handle the roughly 60 percent of claims, those seeking compensation for more than two medical conditions and clearly needing more evidence gathering to process.
Claims will be routed into one of these three segmented lanes through a new "intake processing center," Hickey explained. She estimated that 20 percent of claims could be resolved using the express lane, with the other 20 percent triaged into the special operations lane where claim reviewers and raters with greater skills and experience will work on them as teams.
The new operating model will be in 16 VA regional offices by Sept. 30 this year and in all remaining regions by December 2013, Hickey said.
Having served in her post 13 months, Hickey knows how frustrated members of Congress are with promises over many years that the claims backlog was being addressed. But no VA official called to testify in recent memory has been so verbally abused as Hickey was last month by Rep. Bob Filner (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the veterans affairs committee.
At one point, in mocking Hickey, Filner shifted to falsetto voice to mimic the female retired general. It wasn't the committee's proudest moment in a Congress with public approval ratings near single digits.
Filner, who is running for mayor of San Diego, says VA should address its backlog by starting disability pay as soon as claims are filed on the assumption most veterans are honest and most claims properly documented, just as the IRS does for tax filers. Only on discovering otherwise would payments stop and the VA presumably be tasked to seek restitution.
At the June 19 hearing, Filner also berated representatives of major veterans organization for not being willing to "blow up" the current claim process despite how slow and inaccurate it is.
Hickey didn't mention Filner's harangue on Wednesday but began her press call by noting that 61 percent of current claims are from veterans who have filed previous claims.
"They have a new [medical] issue or the issue they have is aggravated," Hickey said. "They have new medical evidence that says it's gotten worse. They come back to us to have us re-rate that [condition] for a higher percentage level." Of veterans filing these "supplemental claims," she added, 77 percent already are receiving some VA disability compensation.
But VA, she said, is taking every step possible to transform its claim processes and to retrain and reorganize staff to address the backlog. She projects that backlog will fall to 60 percent of pending claims by the end of September and to 40 percent by Sept. 30, 2013.
For the past two years, VA had 2300 of its most experienced claims processors – 37 percent of its entire claims staff – handling retroactive review of 260,000 Agent Orange cases affected by the 1985 Nehmer court ruling. That review is now complete with 131,000 Vietnam veterans or survivors having received $3.65 billion in retroactive payments. Starting this month, those 2300 processors are back to handling current claims.
"I didn't get additional resources to do" Nehmer cases, Hickey said.
Vietnam veterans will continue to file new claims as they are diagnosed with one or more conditions from a list of illnesses, including heart disease and Type II diabetes, that are presumed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure, no matter how brief the stay in Vietnam during the war.
Other key tools that Hickey named for addressing the backlog remain pilot programs, but all are on schedule to be fielded soon department-wide.
The paperless claim processing technology, called the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), involves scanning claim files into digital format, which then can be searched easily by reviewers and raters to speed their decisions. The results of operating VBMA at four pilot locations show electronic claims being decided, on average, in 119 days versus an average of 250 days to reach a paper claim decision, Hickey said.
To comment, email milupdate@aol.com, write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111 or visit:http://www.militaryupdate.com.

More Bad Medical News - just one guy

I'm just one of our approximately 1500 C-123 veterans, and except for conversations with a few other guys such as Paul Bailey and John Harris, I only have Paul's spreadsheet of our veterans and their illnesses to judge by.

But it seems to me I have a full plate of boo-boos, with no way of knowing if any or all are the result of flying our dioxon-contaminated C-123K or my service elsewhere such as Panama, the Azores or the Gulf War or other weird and mysterious places we've flown to. And naturally, trusting in all the VA tells me, I accept that there is no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome, but I do have the following:

  1. heart disease
  2. spinal cord injury (traumatic, not disease process, cervical and lumbar)
  3. diabetes
  4. prostate cancer
  5. perhiperial neuropathy
  6. diabetes
  7. hypertension
  8. skin sores
  9. temporal arteritus
  10. tinnitus 
  11. arthritis
  12. sleep apnea
  13. and today's new addition, avascular necrosis (bone cell death) - it seems from what I learned today this likely won't kill me but it is going to be very, very uncomfortable requiring some tough surgeries, and increasingly incapacitating from now on
Again, I'm just one guy. Most of our C-123 veterans that we've located seem to have one or more of the typical Agent Orange-related illnesses, and many have passed. Diseases like soft tissue sarcoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, heart muscle cancer, Parkinson's, heart disease, ALS...we do seem to have more than our share. Especially considering we began with a healthy working population of flyers, receiving at least annual physicals, subject to drug and weight monitoring, receiving excellent health care, above average incomes and education, etc. We don't have enough veterans to construct any sort of useful epidemiological study, but just anecdotal information seems bad enough.

But I'm blessed. I am retired Air Force and already 100% VA disabled for spinal cord injury, so my medical issues are not financial issues because I can turn to Medicare, TriCare or the VA for treatment and medication and I only have to focus on getting better. Too many of our crew mates, however, are denied VA medical care and didn't retire from the military...they're faced with the financial burden as well as the medical struggle dealing with Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses.

This must change. It can only change with the VA acknowledging that our aircraft were heavily contaminated with dioxin, and that we were  exposed to TCDD! My crappy attitude today can't be claimed on Agent Orange, but I believe these other things possibly should be. Or maybe it was that stuff from my drive past Area 51. 

Perhaps the VA will suggest next we're sickened by that good old catch-all from the pre-science days of medicine, vapors!

Conclusion: we need all C-123 veterans to contact LtCol Paul Bailey to complete a ten second health statement so we can understand who is healthy, and who isn't and with what illnesses. Paul's email is: a208773@rocketmail.com

Conclusion #2: we need all C-123 veterans to call the Agent Orange Registry for a comprehensive exam, whether you are ill or not. Take care of yourselves...and each other!

C-123 Agent Orange - "Lighten Up"

Bill Maudlin's Old Sarge putting the Dumpster out of its misery!

It has been a long year (and then some) since we began the C-123 Agent Orange effort. While VA and Air Force support for our exposure isn't yet available, it will be someday. There is more than reasonable doubt taking us over the threshold of "as likely to as not" in VA-speak.

But let's try to enjoy the happier memories of the Dumpster. For me, the best memory of all is of finishing long flights, putting into some base late at night, dropping our bags at the Q and heading for midnight chow. Then, just eating, chatting, drinking our coffee, complaining about John Harris' amazing military recon of the Hudson River (sure hope the tail numbers were painted over!) Enjoying each other's company. 
And the Provider itself gave us much to laugh about. What a Rodney Dangerfield airplane! What looks we got parked next to C-130s at Andrews or Wright-Pat! And what looks we got from pax when the navigator swung out his seat. Or when we went through rain and drenched everyone inside. 
This C-123, shot down in Honduras, unraveled Iran-Contra 
Central America - misjudged end of runway!
C-123 Engine Start!
I'm much happier now we've upgraded the Dumpster's cockpit!

C-123 flight suits we SHOULD have been issued!

C-123 veterans - contaminated but not exposed
VA Claims Adjudicator - after denying C-123 claims!

15 July 2012

VA Disability Benefits - Did You Know?

We turn to the VA for the obvious reasons...medical care and disability compensation for our service-connected illnesses and injuries. The VA publishes a guide and your veterans' service organization (DAV, VFW, American Legion) can guide your application.

But not all the benefits from the VA are immediately evident. Here are some less well-known advantages you might keep in mind.
1. A 20% disability rating makes a veteran eligible for rehabilitation education. This can mean finishing a degree, flight school, many different career opportunities with the VA providing a monthly stipend in addition to the regular disability compensation, plus paying for normal expenses associated with the rehabilitation program
2. A 50% disability rating brings the full spectrum of VA medical care, regardless of whether the issue is service-connected or not. For most, the added benefit is eyewear and hearing aids unless these were already service-connected. Dental is not included unless there is a dental disability rating
3. A 70% disability rating brings nursing home benefits, freeing most from the need to consider long-term health care
4. A 60% disability rating may make a veteran eligible for consideration to be unemployable, a situation where the scheduled percentages for an injury do not tell the full story of a veteran's medical condition and when the actual situation is one where the veteran has been rendered unable to pursue meaningful employment - in this case, the veteran is awarded a 100% IU (for individual unemployability) rating granting the full range of VA benefits
5. A 100% VA disability rating delivers the full range of VA medical and dental benefits, regardless of service-connection
6. Should a veteran die of the service-connected disability, or die while 100% disabled, the survivor may be eligible for tax-free Dependents Indemnity Compensation, which is not reduced by either military retirees' Survivor Benefits Program or Social Security benefits
7. Upon award of a 100% disability rating, a veteran may apply for two years of VA-paid Veterans Life Insurance (which takes the place of SGLI), at the rate current at the time of the veteran's last participation in SGLI
8. Upon award of a 100% disability rating, a veteran may apply for a free $10,000 VA life insurance policy
9. After being VA 100% disabled for ten or more years, a military retiree may apply to cancel participation in the military survivor's benefits. Funds paid in up to that point are held until the retiree's death and returned to the survivor
10. Veterans prescribed clothes-damaging creams, or medical aids such as wheelchairs or braces, may be eligible for an annual VA Clothing Allowance of about $740. Recently, the VA began permitting multiple awards of the annual Clothing Allowance for veterans with multiple qualifying situations
11. Veterans with a 100% disability rating may apply to the military for an ID card to permit access to commissary and exchange facilities

14 July 2012

Why the C-123?

Because we had them. Hundreds of them! Chase and later, Fairchild evolved the C-123 from its earliest glider-based concept to a small, intra-theater airlift. Interestingly, the C-123 is the only USAF weapon system which had versions as a glider, twin engine reciprocating, four jet, and finally hybrid twin reciprocating/twin jet high-wing transport. Developed early in airlift history as what was thought of as strategic airlift, the C-123 quickly because a theater-level truck, hauling whatever was too heavy for a helicopter or whatever needed to be lifted fifty miles or more.

Quite unique. Quite disarming to see the nose ring left over from its glider design! Equally disarming to see the twelve feet of blue-red flame coming out of the reciprocating engines' exhausts! For the guys coming over from jets and 130s, their jaws always dropped as they stood at the starboard troop door of this "dumpster."

But it flew! Not only was it in-service before the C-130 was launched, it offered unique airlift capabilities. It was second only to the C-7 Caribou in its short field takeoff and landing characteristics. Twelve tons of vital cargo could be delivered to thousands of places a C-130 would never fit. Or, where a C-130 would never lift off from again because of runway surface wheel load or takeoff obstructions. Getting there at a modest 173mph, and with a 2300 mile range, what made the C-123 the darling of Army and Marine FEBA operators was the low stall speed to help drop into tight landing areas. Along with the short-lived C-7, the C-123 greatly increased battlefield mobility. And this mobility is missing today, with the C-123's capabilities not fully replaced with Army rotor wing airlift or even the Osprey.

Getting beans and bullets to the combat PFC who needs them meant every front line commander appreciated the C-123, and praised its ability to quickly evacuate 46 litter or ambulatory patients. First extensively practiced at Pope AFB NC and later, Dreux Air Base, France, the C-123 also excelled at pinpoint target parachute deliveries, dropping low-level cargo pallets extracted from the aircraft by drogue parachutes.

Retired in 1982 from the last USAF Reserve units which flew them, the C-123 succumbed to the obvious supply difficulties of its unique fuel (aviation-grade gasoline), unique engines (R2800s), and unique propellors. But there were efforts to evolve a follow-on system.

Fairchild YC-134A
First was Fairchild and their proposal to develop a YC-123E, able to land on all surfaces...water, land, ice or snow! Only a single variant was built. Fairchild then proposed YC-134A, of which only one was built. Successful in most regards, it did not provide enough improvement to warrant development. 

Twin Turboprop C-123T "Turbo Provider"
Then in late 1980, the Thai government expressed its concern with the increasing obsolescence of that nation's fleet of C-123B and C-123K models. Together with civil aviation resources in Southern California and USAF assistance, Allison turboprops were added to a C-123 airframe. While this addressed the commonality of fuel, engines and propellors airlift leaders sought, the resulting cost and performance were too close to the C-130E models, and the Thai government opted for that more capable aircraft, placing great reliance on the Herc's greater range and payload and forfeiting the Provider's short field takeoff and landing advantages forever.

But the idea lives on in European aviation. The Nord C-160 developed the C-123 concept more fully, and also nearly-identical variants as on the right.

But for the aircrews, we sometimes have to remind ourselves we usually flew a bunch of other airplanes was well. Many C-123 veterans like John Harris of the 731st flew fighters before getting "stuck" in the Provider. Most of us have far more C-130, C-5 or other aircraft experience, but like Col. Joe Jackson of Washington State, who earned the Medal of Honor during Vietnam, we seem to be forever "C-123 guys."

Colonel Jackson:
"I flew fighters for 17 years and nobody ever called me a fighter pilot," he said. "I flew reconnaissance airplanes for 3 years and nobody ever called me a reconnaissance pilot. I flew C-123s for one year and I'll forever be known as a transport pilot."

While he likes to make light of his time in the C-123, Colonel Jackson flew nearly 300 combat missions in the aircraft during the Vietnam War. It was during this time that he received the nation's highest award for military valor for a dangerous, impromptu, rescue operation of three American military personnel.

No pressurization. No air conditioning, No commode. No coffee pot. No respect. But never equaled!

Keep the Faith - C-123 Veterans Will Eventually Succeed

We've had what anyone would call discouraging news from both the VA and AF reviews of C-123 Agent Orange contamination and aircrew exposure. Both reports basically verified the aircraft being contaminated after its Vietnam Operation Ranch Hand missions, yet both reports are flawed in having made unscientific assumptions to construct an argument that we were not exposed while flying the Provider from 1972 to 1982.

We disagree with these reports. Scientists disagree. Other federal agencies disagree. Our doctors disagree. Fortunately, there are leaders in Congress who continue to ask penetrating questions. Fortunately, there are more and more scientists who come to question these two reports. Fortunately, there are responsible military officers and VA officials who are willing to keep an open mind, and who appreciate the impact our exposure to dioxin and other military herbicides.

The benefit of the doubt. That's all we ask for and all we deserve. Secretary Shinseki, ask your rating officers to weigh carefully each of our veterans' individual claims and give merit to the many proofs of our exposure!

Fellow veterans, we seem surrounded, but take heart from a Marine Corps legend:

Camp Lejeune & VA Response to Contaminated Water Claims

- VA "Quietly" approving some Camp Lejeune exposure claims!
 ‘Public is only now beginning to realize the extent of the contamination’ -
By Barbara Barrett | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Former Marine Corps Cpl. Peter Devereaux was told about a year ago that he had just two or three years to live.
More than 12 months later, at 48, he still isn’t ready to concede that the cancer that’s wasting his innards is going to kill him. He swallows his pills and suffers the pain and each afternoon he greets his 12-year-old daughter, Jackie, as she steps off her school bus in North Andover, Mass.
The U.S. Department of the Navy says that more research is needed to connect ailments suffered by Marines such as Devereaux who served at Camp Lejeune and their families who lived there to decades of water contamination at the 156,000-acre base in eastern North Carolina. Meanwhile, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly begun awarding benefits to a few Marines who were based at Lejeune.
“Right now, I would venture to say that any Camp Lejeune veteran who files a claim now is presumed to have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water,” Brad Flohr, the assistant director for policy, compensation and pension service at the VA, told a meeting of affected Marines and family members in April.
It’s estimated that as many as a million people were exposed to the water from the 1950s to the 1980s. The water was laced with trichloroethylene, known as TCE; tetrachloroethylene, known as PCE; benzene and other volatile organic chemicals.
Peter Devereaux doesn’t expect to be around for Jackie’s college years, but he hopes to be able to pay for them. Along with hundreds of other veterans across the country, he’s convinced that contaminated water caused his cancer.
“It’s like it’s criminal, you know?” said Devereaux, who has male breast cancer.
While the Department of the Navy, which oversees the base, is funding continuing research on the issue, in some cases the VA has acknowledged that as likely as not, some Marine veterans’ ailments were caused by drinking and bathing in poisonous water.
Despite the exposure, though, there’s no presumption that a veteran’s disease was caused by the contamination. Each case is judged on hits own merits, Flohr said.
Still, veterans’ advocates have hope.
“It matters. That’s an admission, right there,” said Jerry Ensminger, a Marine veteran in North Carolina who lost his daughter to leukemia in 1985 after living at Camp Lejeune.
James Watters of Lubbock, Texas, was told in 2008 that he had a year to live. In June 2009, he learned that the VA had linked his cancer to the Lejeune contamination.
“This thing is huge in its ramifications,” Watters said. “I think it just opens the floodgates.”
More Marine veterans are learning about what happened years ago at Camp Lejeune.
Two years ago, a new law required the Defense Department to contact veterans through the Internal Revenue Service and tell them about their exposure.
Many veterans interviewed by McClatchy said they had no idea that they’d been exposed until they opened the envelopes in the mail.
“You know what went off in my head? A light bulb,” said Allen Menard, 47, of Green Bay, Wis. His doctor had told him years before that his form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, mycosis fungoides, was chemical-related.
He filed for VA disability in 2008, blaming his cancer on Lejeune’s water, and was at first denied before finally he was granted a full service connection, a recognition that his illness is related to his service, this spring.
“I did my research. I had to fight,” Menard said. “I had two professors at Boston University write letters for me.”
One of those professors, epidemiologist Richard Clapp, said veterans deserve an answer about what effects the water might have had on their health.
“It’s a horrific problem,” said Clapp, who serves on a community panel that’s studying the Lejeune contamination. “There are lots of people exposed, some to very high levels of these chemicals. Some for short periods for time, some for decades.”
The public is only now beginning to realize the extent of the contamination.
Stories among the veterans indicate a handful have been given service connections. Each case means the VA has established that there’s at least a 50 percent chance that the veteran’s military service caused the ailment.
The awards are inconsistent, however. While a veteran in Wisconsin is offered payment, one in Florida with similar symptoms is denied. The VA doesn’t keep track, and Flohr said this spring that he’d just learned about many of the successful appeals.
Legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate would establish presumptions between service connection and illnesses associated with the contamination, but those bills are still pending.
Although advocates are energized by recent VA benefits awards, a McClatchy review of some Veterans Affairs decisions shows that connections to the toxic water at Lejeune have been made in the past.
In 2002, for example, the agency granted a service connection to a veteran with cancer of the hard palate. The veteran, whose name is redacted, had served from 1982 to 1987 at Lejeune. His application was denied in 1995 and again in 1999.
After he sent in medical opinions about the contamination, an appeals board granted the service connection.
Another challenge for Veterans Affairs and federal scientists comes in deciding what diseases might have been caused by which chemical in the water.
For now, Flohr said the VA is trying to educate regional offices around the country. Last month, the agency sent a memo to its regional offices describing contamination of TCE and PCE.
The memo says there may be limited association between those chemicals and cancers of the kidney, breast, bladder, lung or esophagus.
The Veteran Affairs memo doesn’t mention benzene, even though federal scientists said a year ago that benzene has emerged as a central suspect in the contamination. Benzene is a known carcinogen.
The distinction about which chemicals were present in the water is important, because they’re associated with different diseases.
For years, Marine veteran Michael Schooler suspected that Agent Orange he was exposed to in Vietnam was responsible for his acute myoletic leukemia. Then McClatchy and other news outlets reported this year that benzene has had a far greater significance in the contamination than scientists had previously realized.
“I asked my doctor, ‘Does benzene cause it?’ ” recalled Schooler, 61, of Jasper, Ind. “He lit up like a Christmas tree. He said, ‘That’s what causes it.’”
Schooler filed an appeal this spring. He expects to learn this month whether the VA will grant the service connection for benzene exposure.
In Massachusetts, Peter Devereaux also waits, drawing on the patience he learned while he was in the Marines.
“I’m terminal,” he said. “Being a man, I only want to take care of my wife and daughter, like I always have.”
Veterans who think they might have been affected by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can apply for service connection health benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension.
The VA recommends that if you have any of the following material, please attach it to your application:

  • Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
  • Dependency records (marriage & children’s birth certificates)
  • Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)
  • Veterans who have applied for benefits related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune say they strongly recommend a medical nexus letter from a doctor.
    For more information, contact your local VA office or your local veterans service organization, or go online to http://www.vba.va.gov/VBA/
    The Marine Corps also has a website about the Lejeune contamination,https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/
    A group of Marine veterans and affected family members has a website on the issue, The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, www.tftptf.com