27 December 2013

C-123 Exposure Claims - The Effort Makes No Sense Any Longer

One thousand three hundred days.

That's the VA's wait between their blanket policy-driven illegal and automatic denial of every C-123 Agent Orange exposure claim and the hoped-for resolution finally offered by the Board of Veterans Appeals.

That means we're looking at over two years (720 days) for our claims' automatic denial, just for the privilege of then waiting nearly three years for a BVA to set things right at last...over five years wasted (2,080 days, or more.) After seven or so years there'll be a catch-up check, but that doesn't make up for seven years of denied VA medical care, no pharmacy, no rehab, no prosthetics, no dental or eye, nothing. Nothing. A catch-up check won't make up for seven years of denied life-saving medical care for a veteran, or for the financial ruin brought on a family waiting so long. So terribly long.

I don't know about the rest of you but this is crushing...so profoundly depressing I would need to look for the right, dark, hopeless words but they don't exist anyway.

We're in our mid-to-late '60s, so submitting an Agent Orange exposure claim now means in five to six years, thus we're past the average man's life expectancy, and perhaps eventually there may be a big brown envelope announcing a VA disability decision for the widow to open.

Six years is an impossibly long time for a sick vet to wait to get in front of a VA doctor. Thats a long time to wait for help with prescription expenses. That's terribly long time to suffer the financial impact of severe illness, denied all state and federal benefits due disabled veterans. Frankly, those years are years better spent focused on health and family issues. It is a very long time, and that's a skillfully managed part of the VA claims process. The Vietnam War vets call it "waiting for an army to die." Good point. Right on.

Should we give it up? I wish I had, two years ago. I had other stuff to do with my family.

Let's face it. The USAFSAM and HQ/AFMC people at Wright-Pat knew what they were doing in restricting all C-123K herbicide contamination information in their "official use only"(per the USAF Office of Environmental Law) secret file cabinet back in 1996. We never knew what we'd gone through flying the C-123Ks for a decade.

Then, in 2011, the VA beat us to the punch with their staff in VBA and VHA sneaking in that Society of Toxicology poster on "exposure," showing them ready to redefine law, medicine, science and ethics in their determination, ready to get rid of us.

As VBA Compensation and Pension Service told us, "Go somewhere else." As VHA (Dr Michael Peterson, Chief Consultant, Post-Deployment Health) told us, "We all die." VBA even ordered claims denied writing "TCDD has not been shown to cause harm." Amazing...Agent Orange is "harmless", so claims are denied. And besides, claims denied "because (non-existent) VA regulations do not permit" C-123 claims, so VA's Deputy Director Post Deployment Health orders C-123 vets barred even from Agent Orange Registry exams! (telecon w/Major W. Carter)

We innocently thought we'd show them truth in facts and figures, offer scientific and medical support from other federal agencies and our physicians, fill out their forms and sit back for good VA government staffers to do the right thing. Wrong.

We didn't understand the wall of prejudice we were to face...of VA executives willing to write deceptive answers to congressional leaders, of Air Force executives willing to deceive senators asking about aircraft contamination by answering that the aircraft were "safe in their present configuration," – which was smelted aluminum ingots, the fleet of C-123Ks having been destroyed as toxic waste two years earlier.

Little did we know the automatic reaction at 810 Vermont was not only "NO" but "HELL NO. No Way. Never. Not on my watch! Go elsewhere. Cannot permit!" Whatever their motivation is with denying Freedom of Information of requests and otherwise  obstructing our rights under the law isn't an issue.

The issue is that their instructions to the regional offices to deny all claims dooms us just as completely as if we'd never applied in the first place. Believe me, they wish we'd gone away years ago - their C-123 "final solution." Through our United States Senators, Secretary Shinseki promises us careful, individual evaluations, but then VA provides their rating officials boilerplate language to deny each and every claim, stating "Regulations do not permit us to concede exposure." And there are no such regulations, of course...just words VA enjoys typing to deny claims.

Deny, deny until they die. And die we do. Paul, Bob, General Mike, Doc Warner, Gabby, Jim, Mayleen, Lou, and all the others.

A veteran couldn't meet a better nurse or doctor than at the VA medical center. Praise God for each and every one of them, and tell the President the nation should be proud of these dedicated health professionals.

The rest of the VA bunch, those whose job it is to prevent veterans' claims, are not worth writing about. The hell with it. Let's just drop the misery of it.

Preventing claims is VBA's profession, Job One! They do it so very, very expertly, for all but the claims forced on them by law. Any wiggle room, any judgement call, any interpretation required means a denied claim and another VA victory. If laws and Title 38 can be ignored to deny claims...victory. If requirements spelled out in the Federal Register can be ignored to deny claims...victory, sweet victory for VA. And even worse for veterans, VA will ignore their own staff physicians, even if internationally recognized as Agent Orange researchers and professors of medicine as well as VA senior staff.

"Mission accomplished" to VBA means claim denied or a vet passing on while waiting for word. We can't win...they'll just keep obstructing and delaying until the last of us is dead. This is why VA employees draw their paychecks, and how their accomplishments are measured for performance bonuses.

VBA knows the longer they keep us from medical care the faster our demise due to lack of medical care. From their perspective, the sooner the better.

To VBA, a live veteran is a waste of space.

I'll say it again. The 1991 Agent Orange Act and Title 38 spell out that military herbicide exposed veterans will be granted service connection for Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. The Federal Register of 8 May 2001 page 23166 details it further...exposed veterans will be treated the same as Vietnam War veterans. Exposure to military herbicides...the only proof a veteran need provide besides his medical diagnosis.

That's why VA pretends there is no exposure, and in doing so defies official conclusions that C-123 veterans have indeed been exposed...proofs from the NIH, CDC, EPA, US Public Health Service, USAF and others. VA does this by their own, in-house redefinition of "exposure," a definition adding the word "bioavailability" and an act challenged by the National Institutes of Health/National Toxicology Program's Dr. Linda Birnbaum and also by the CDC/Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

These proofs from other agencies will spell success for C-123 claims once at the Board of Veterans Appeals...for the veterans who survive their cancers and heart conditions those extra three to five years!

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