14 January 2014

More On VA's Claim That Agent Orange is Harmless

VA's Director of Compensation and Pension Service has directed that C-123 veterans' claims for Agent Orange ALL be denied on a variety of grounds, including his statement: 
"In summary [C&P is writing its review of the CDC conclusion by Dr. Tom Sinks that C-123 veterans actually were exposed, but the Director very pointedly skips that part so as to better deny claims]there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD [the toxin in Agent Orange] exposure causes any long term health effects." 
Gosh, maybe it is just me, but it really looks as though the VA deliberately reversed the actual finding of the CDC/ATSDR...just to deny C-123 veterans' claims.

C&P's staff, in denying vital medical care to Agent Orange-exposed veterans, perhaps didn't have the spare time to read up on Agent Orange.

One place the nice folks at Compensation and Pension might turn for TCDD information is...the VA! Yes, indeed! Right on the VA Public Health "Facts About Herbicides" web page the VA says "TCDD is the most toxic of toxins, and is classified as a human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency." 

Do we have this right? Has C&P refused care to over a thousand C-123 vets seeking care for cancers, ALS,
diabetes, heart disease and other Agent Orange presumptive illnesses...because C&P has concluded TCDD hasn't been shown to have any health effects? Their statement was brought to his attention in a meeting in the C&P office on 28 Feb 2013, and VA has not corrected or modified it in any way since.

That same web page directs veterans to the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease web page, where the dangers of TCDD are discussed in detail. This is also confusing, because C&P directed VA to disregard input from Dr. Tom Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC/ATSDR, as well as other experts from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, EPA and US Public Health Service...all of whom agree C-123 veterans were exposed to TCDD. C&P writes that these other government agencies are not qualified to discuss exposure to Agent Orange. Yet VA tells vets to rely on ATSDR for information about TCDD!!

It seems the only conclusion a reasonable person can make from all this is that C&P has decided that no C-123 veterans were harmed by their Agent Orange exposure, despite opinions from other federal agencies and in the face of its own conclusions about the dangers of TCDD. 

It seems the only reason for this action by Compensation and Pension is to insure, despite the law, that all C-123 vets are prevented from receiving care for their established Agent Orange illnesses. It seems C&P is determined to prevent "benefit of the doubt" or "veteran-friendly, non-adversarial" requirements to apply to C-123 vets.

Can't somebody from VA's Office of the General Counsel read the law to Compensation and Pension? Toss them a copy of the Federal Register 8 May 2001, page 23166 and also the Federal Register of 31 August 2010. Counsel should ask why rating officials in the regional offices are told by C&P to tell veterans "regulations do not permit" recognition of C-123 exposures. 

Somebody must explain to Compensation and Pension, and to Post Deployment Health, that the term "exposure" is not theirs to redefine in a totally unscientific manner, which is what they've done for their stated purpose of preventing C-123 veterans' claims!

Note: VA's regulation that implements 38 U.S.C. 1116(a)(3), 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(i), defines herbicide agents specifically: “2,4-D; 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD; cacodylic acid; and picloram.” So C&P is charged with providing compensation and pensions to TCDD-exposed veterans, but VA elects to deny compensation and pensions to TCDD-exposed C-123 veterans because C&P has concluded it isn't harmful????

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