27 October 2012

DoD records agency torpedoes C-123 Claims!

JSRRC, Alexandra, Virginia
This week I had the opportunity to review my "C" file at the local regional office. Lesson learned...should have done so much earlier! It turns out that the Joint Services Records Research Center, the DoD agency responsible for informing the VA about any veteran's individual PTSD or Agent Orange claim, was totally off base and helped torpedo my VA claim.

In my case, which is likely the same as every other C-123 veteran who has approached the VA for service connection, the VA regional office did a fair job summarizing my claim and boiled down to a single question what was needed from JSRRC: "We are requesting a determination as to whether herbicide (sic) were found as alleged." An accurate answer would be vital, confirming my own description of the situation or leaving it unfounded.

JSRRC has boxes and boxes of supporting information collected in their normal course of activities. They gather unit histories, combat action reports, deployment orders...all that sort of stuff. But for some reason, last year when I was referred to JSRRC for information to support the C-123 exposure issue, they responded in the negative...nothing available, per their chief, Mr. Dominic Baldini.

So I oped to provide Mr. Baldini a large collection of what our C-123 veterans had collected since April 2011. I sent JSRRC flight logs, toxicological tests, contemporary news articles, "buddy letters", expert independent scientific opinions, findings by other federal agencies, photographs, emails and official correspondence. Enough any historian would agree to answer that question"was herbicide found as alleged." Sometimes historian want original source documents, and everything I sent is still readily available today from the various agencies if Mr. Baldini felt he couldn't accept what I sent as official enough for their purposes.

Faced with their mission objective of helping the VA help veterans substantiate claims, the JSRRC completely failed me and all other C-123 veterans. Instead of responding to the VA's inquiry about me with a summation of testing done on Patches and the rest of the fleet, supported by all the official documentation which thus far totals over 300 pages, the JSRRC simply torpedoed  us!

In respond to the VA question, the JSRRC uselessly and in error wrote:
"Unfortunately, the JSRRC in unable to verify or document that an (sic) air crewmembers were (sic) exposed to Agent Orange resulting from Agent Orange residue or dioxin contaminated aircraft or aircraft parts. Please refer to your (VA) website and the VA's determination for this information."
Four problems here which would ruin any C-123 veteran's hopes for a fair deal from the VA:
1. JSRRC did not address the question posed by the VA but instead said it couldn't "verify or confirm" aircrew Agent Orange exposure
2. JSRRC referred the VA back to the VA for supporting information (with the referral back to the VA's C-123 press release from VA Public Health) - ridiculous in the extreme to tell the VA  seeking source documents to read their own (erroneous) web page!
3. JSRRC was incorrect in their answer anyway, as ample information was available at JSRRC to establish aircrew Agent Orange exposure - in particular, the expert scientific opinion from Dr. Tom Sinks, Deputy Director, CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, who stated:
"Given the available information, I believe that aircrew operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD"
Dr. Sinks, speaking on behalf of his agency which is responsible for making such decisions, coudn't have been any clearer. His letter certainly was one item of verifying documentation JSRRC had to offer. His answer should have been adequate.
4. Finally, once JSRRC responded the VA did nothing to challenge  either the failure to address the original VA question, or to challenge the JSRRC response which clearly was in error - the VA had the same documentation from ATSDR and other sources

Another VA Claim Sunk - for inadequate proof!
Observation: We all need to personally visit our Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) to review our records. Discuss with the staffer who will sit with you while going through the records any errors, omissions, whatever. You can request copies which they may be courteous enough to offer, but if not, simply FOIA the entire collection. Remember this "C" file at the VARO is separate from your medical records and you need to make sure both are complete and accurate. In my visit I uncovered three very important issues to address which will help make my case successful...well worth the trip downtown to keep them from letting your application be torpedoed!

This is terrifying. JSRRC and the VA can't be counted on to meet their own mission of accurately gathering and evaluating evidence of our Agent Orange exposure, and then when challenged by veterans simply ignore us!

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