09 October 2013

Shutdown Continues to Sidetrack VA Exposure Claims

Another Quiet but Disastrous Collapse of the VA Claims Process

Got an Agent Orange exposure claim? Forget it! 

In many instances of "boots on the ground" Agent Orange claims for in-country exposure, VA turns to the Joint Services Records Research Center to confirm a veteran's service. Operated by the Army at Fort Belvoir, VA, JSRRC responds with whatever archival materials available to support, or deny, a veteran's claim. In nearly every case of a veteran claiming Agent Orange (or military herbicide) exposure outside Vietnam's "boots on the ground" population, VA requires an inquiry to JSRRC.

But JSRRC is closed. Its talented and dedicated staff of fifteen DOD civilian employees and managers are furloughed – absent from their usual duty posts so that means every Blue Water Navy, Brown Water Navy, Thailand, Korean DMZ and C-123 exposure claim will sit in their Fort Belvoir in-box until some day when Congress gets its act together.

Recommendation: If veterans can submit in their FDC ample official proof of their herbicide exposures, VA should skip the JSRRC procedure for now, granting presumptive service connection to be reexamined upon the government starting up again. Such proofs could be flight orders, deck logs, VA 21-4138s substantiated by authoritative sources, etc. Unfair to deny or delay veterans' claims just because JSRRC is furloughed!

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