04 December 2012

VA Sets Unfair Barriers to C-123 Veteran Agent Orange Claims

C-123 fleet in HAZMAT quarantine storage, Arizona
VA recognizes several groups regarding veterans' Agent Orange exposure. First and foremost, the "boots on the ground" Vietnam War vets. These men and women are presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange and eligible for treatment of a long list of VA-recognized Agent Orange illnesses - the "presumptive connection" illnesses.

VA also recognizes other groups, including Korean DMZ veterans, Brown Water Navy, and some vets who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. All these veterans need prove to the VA is that they served "when and where".

Finally, VA has recently published a list of other veterans who, if able to prove their exposure to Agent Orange or other military herbicides, may be considered on an individual basis for Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. These veterans need not prove the "medical nexus" of their exposure and illness, so long as the illness is one of the current list. Included here are veterans from stateside storage locations, some Blue Water Navy, and -of great interest to us- the C-123 veterans.

But even though we're on their bulletins, we're being treated in a most unique, most unfair manner. Only in the case of C-123 veterans has the VA established a special barrier built around the issues of contamination and exposure. You see, other veterans need only provide "as likely to as not" proof that their service in the military brought them into contact with contaminants of military herbicide. The VA seems to group the whole issue so that contamination equals exposure.

In fact, and we agree, contamination and exposure are separate issues. Contamination means the scientifically established toxicity of a veteran's workplace, vehicle, location, etc. Exposure means that in the presence of a contaminant, one is or is not EXPOSED via inhalation, ingestion or dermal routes of exposure. Separate parts of the larger story of toxic substances and how people are harmed.

But only in the case of C-123 veterans has the VA taken special illogical steps to prevent our group of veterans' lawful claims for treatment of typical Agent Orange illnesses. Once VA found out that there was no way to dispute the actual contamination of the C-123 fleet because so many Air Force tests had already been done, VA acted to bar us from service connection by dreaming up a phony argument that contamination for the first time somehow did not equal exposure! And regardless of the multitude of scientists and physicians who support C-123 veterans' claims, the VA remains dedicated to denying us vital medical care.

Hard to understand why, other than the determination (as always) by the VA to prevent any group of veterans from successful Agent Orange claims unless Congress demands the VA to recognize them. VA has never, on its own, reviewed a group of veterans and determined them to be AO-eligible, and they clearly are dedicated to preventing even one C-123 veteran from getting VA medical care. We recognize there is a budget impact, but the duty of Congress is to provide the dollars. The duty of the VA is to treat veterans. We wish they'd start doing so!

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