And they meant it. On 28 February, the same day as the meeting with Compensation Services, during which we were told of the uselessness of any evidence we might present and the predetermination that our claims will be denied, VA's Manchester NH regional office indeed denied the Agent Orange exposure claim of a C-123 veteran.
|C-123 Vet. "Dang - screwed again!|
There seem to be two VA basic challenges to this man's claim. First, the VA denied his Agent Orange claim because he hadn't served in Vietnam. To better deny the claim and prevent the veteran's access to VA medical care, they simply ignored the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Title 38 3.09, and the clarification VA provided in the Federal Register 8 May 2010 where VA explained that any exposed veterans will be treated the same as Vietnam veterans if able to substantiate their exposure to dioxin.
The second method VA used to deny this perfectly valid claim was to pretend that other federal agencies lack any qualification to address exposure issues. All such opinions submitted in this man's claim as proofs were grouped as "lay evidence" and dismissed as lacking credibility. And what evidence was dismissed as lay evidence?
EPA, National Institutes of Health, National Toxicology Program, CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, US Public Health Service, University of Texas Medical School, Columbia University School of Public Health, Oregon Health Sciences University Toxicology Program, numerous independent scientists and physicians, the veteran's own physicians and other veterans' expert supporting testimony via sworn VA21-4138 forms
(note: all evidence was either specific to this veteran, or in direct, inclusive reference to him and all C-123 veterans similarly situated)Included in what Manchester dismissed as lay evidence was evidence from Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director, National Institutes of Health/National Toxicology Program, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Does somebody in the Manchester VARO bring to bear science credentials more credible than hers? Anyone in Manchester with an 80-page CV to match hers?
What threshold does Manchester set for a veteran's claim to be fairly evaluated, given that even this amount of powerful and convincing evidence is dismissed in their eager refusal to award service connection? Sorry...not actually "eager" as they took two years to get around to denying his claim! Anyway, their threshold is one of VA policy, not science or law!