11 January 2014

Amazing Day at Cheyenne VA Regional Center

Friday I visited the Cheyenne, Wyoming VA Regional Center. The hospital was simply superb...an eighteen-bed facility, and smiles everywhere with terrific care as I went to Pharmacy, Occupational Medicine, the Lab, Benefits, Dental, the Exchange, the coffee shop, Travel. The terrific care even extended to the VA police who came to the rescue with a jump start once we discovered our headlights had been left on (oops!) for ten hours! 

Less satisfactory was the time with Benefits. I was there to learn more about the VA's position vis-a-vis Agent Orange exposure and claims denials that our C-123 veterans experience.

The benefits lady tried to be as helpful as possible, and was as patient with my inquiries as could be expected. No complaints at all there! What proved disappointing, however, were the amazing answers I got to my inquiries about why the claims are denied.

She pulled up quotes from denied claims, and read to me from them, "Regulations do not permit..." and the rest of the boilerplate language provided by Veterans Health Administration for Compensation and Pension to insert in the denials.

I asked, "But what are those regulations?" She pointed to the parts she'd just read back to me and said, "Right there. It says there are regulations, so there are." She continued her explanation, "Except for Vietnam, and some troops along the DMZ in Korea, and some veterans who served in Thailand, no other Agent Orange claims are permitted." She was kind, but seemed to be challenging, "What part of this denial can't you read? It says right there in the denial 'regulations do not permit,' so, somewhere and somehow, they do not permit. And that's that."

She couldn't find any regulation (because there isn't any) and she wouldn't even look at the Federal Register p. 21355 dated 8 May 2001. Concluding our visit, she repeated, "VA regulations clearly forbid C-123 Agent Orange claims and raters have to go by those regulations, not the Federal Register, or letters or doctors' opinions."

Do you get it? The claim denial SAID there were regulations, so that was her proof. Not the fact that VA has no such regulations, but that VHA said to tell the veteran "regulations do not permit." That sounds like adult talk for a kid's "Just because."

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