09 July 2012

Is VA Approval of C-123 Crews' Agent Orange a Budget-Buster?

No. Not at all. In fact, compared to the far larger numbers involved with Blue Water Navy veterans, and Vietnam Veterans We're barely a theoretical drop in the bucket and VA budget-watchers need not panic if our veterans are ever granted service-connection for dioxin exposure aboard our contaminated aircraft in keeping with our "Boots on the Airplane" claims.

Our very small numbers of aircrew, maintenance and aerial port personnel total perhaps only 1500-2000, not the hundreds of thousands from the other groups. But besides the fewer number of potential claimants for VA medical care and pensions, we note:
1. A far larger percentage of our members were career Reservists or Active Duty than the case with Blue Water Navy or the Vietnam ground forces. This means many of us eventually qualified for the military's TriCare as do other military retirees. Seeking care from TriCare instead of the VA means little or no impact on VA budget
2. A large number of us are already receiving some VA disability benefits, often for the same issues associated with Agent Orange. Thus, no additional impact if for the same issues
3. A large number of us receive military retirement pay as Reservists or Active Duty retirees. Even with a 20-year letter, any VA pension benefits are offset by military retired pay. The overall impact on the Treasury is nil, even though the VA might end up paying a veteran rather than the Air Force, and only more senior enlisted and officers whose retired pay exceeded their VA disability pay would see any impact.
4. Since retiring our aircraft in 1982, a number of our veterans have already died and will not receive either VA medical care or pensions.
5. Nearly all of us are now in the Medicare age range and might not elect to approach the VA for medical care. Many live too far from VA medical facilities to seek convenient care there.
6. Having scattered across the country over the decades, not all of our veterans will ever get word of any VA benefits eligibility.
7. A very large percentage of our veterans are also Vietnam veterans and thus already fully eligible for Agent Orange benefits.

But forget all the above! It is just not the job of these VA administrators to stand in the way of qualified veterans to protect their budgets. Congress has the job of providing the VA necessary resources to meet veterans' needs...VA administrators instead should restrict themselves to insuring all eligible veterans receive all appropriate benefits!

Bottom line: we're the veterans. We served honorably in especially hazardous situations. Turns out we encountered a hazard aboard our C-123 which poisoned us and which the VA now must treat us with compassion and justice. This will begin with their allowing at least the possibility that exposure did occur.

...and from the Blue Water Navy Veterans' site: 
We're not talking about dollars. We are talking about human lives. We are talking about separating the piles of dead, alive and wounded people -- people who have made a contract with the U.S. Government to agree to be trained and shipped off to some foreign land to fight for, and possibly die for, the U.S. Government. There is a middle ground between those two extremes, and those are the wounded and others sickened in the Nation's service. They are individuals who fought and did not die, but found themselves somewhere in the middle with varying degrees of injuries. These wounded veterans need to be cared for. They are a 'cost of war' and require this country to take care of them for the remainder of their lives. They often need to be compensated because their wounds and disabilities keep them from returning to the active workforce to make a living to pay for the necessities of life for themselves and their families. They automatically assume that the U.S. Government will be gracious enough to regard them as veterans so they can receive this compensation, along with health care and other benefits that have been devised by a department of our government specifically in existence to care for these wounded veterans. They generally assume that this care they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be life-long and of such a quality that they are as comfortable as possible as they live out their lives with the limitations of their wounds, whether those are mental or physical. 
But we're mistaken! 

John Paul Rossie, Executive D
irector (Blue Water Navy Vietnam)

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