25 February 2014

New Science Supports C-123 Exposure Claims - but automatically dismissed by VA

What happened? What'd they do?
That’s right...dismissed. Automatically, with reasons to be developed later if necessary, but like all other evidence supporting C-123 veterans' claims, refused without evaluation.

The decision was against us was reached a year ago...that all evidence supportive of C-123 claims is to be dismissed...disregarded...ignored.(clarification...VA C&P told us that no evidence would ever be accepted to bring a claim to "as likely to as not" and that "probably" all claims would be denied...as all have been since we were told this by VA's Dr. Michael Peterson)

VA Post Deployment Health as well as Compensation and Pension Service (C&P) will not accept Friday’s Environmental Research article about C-123 veterans' exposures for support of the veterans' claims.

This has already been decided and the C-123 veterans informed of the decision. At our February 2013 meeting with the Compensation and Pension Service Director, he and his staff explained that no amount of support or evidence, such as the recent Environment Research article or even official findings confirming our exposures from CDC or other federal agencies, will be allowed to elevate a C-123 veteran's claim to "as likely to as not."

While this seemed extraordinary when we were told by the Director, Compensation and Pension, subsequent conversations with the Acting Chief Consultant Post Deployment Health did make things clearer. We learned, through Post Deployment Health, that none of the C-123 veterans were ever exposed.

As simple as that. Change the definition and the problem goes away. That is, their problem...our diseases still sit on our doorstep, if not theirs. The benefit to the VA is that the infamous backlog gets reduced, it goes into the appeals backlog which nobody cares about, and the decisions due the veterans are postponed for years, with tremendous savings in VA medical care denied in the interim which can be as much as five to seven years.

No dental, no vision, no audiology, no prosthetics, no pharmacy, no rehab, no surgery, no anything. Years with the veteran either doing without these services or paying privately, unless otherwise eligible for VA care for other wounds or injuries.

Any civilian or Civil Service employees out there willing to wait seven years to be treated for an on-the-job injury? Hello? Hello??

Which is why Post Deployment Health directed the regional medical centers to refuse requests from C-123 veterans to receive the Agent Orange Registry exam – VA has already decided these vets were not exposed, by having redefined exposure, so no need for the physical. This was double-checked with Post Deployment Health leadership who explained the policy.

Perhaps...it depends how you define the word exposure? To paraphrase a former president.

Post Deployment Health ruling was made based on her group’s internal redefinition of exposure (Exposure = contamination field + bioavailability.)

Thus, even though C-123 veterans have clearly qualified under the law for Agent Orange exposure benefits, no claims will be approved and, in fact, all claims will be ordered denied by C&P, which even provides the rating officials proper boilerplate language to use.

We're reminded of the Secretary's assurances to the Senate that claims will be carefully, individually evaluated without any blanket policy against C-123 veterans. Instead, claims are carefully, individually evaluated and all denied by policy, whatever name it goes by.

And even though C-123 veterans have clearly met scientific criteria for claiming Agent Orange exposure and proved their exposure as well as increased cancer risk and other health impacts, no claims will be approved. Just ask Post Deployment Health.

At first the C-123 veterans concluded that this was a blanket policy against our claims. Both the
Secretary and the Under Secretary for Benefits assured us and our legislators that VA has no blanket policy against C-123 claims. Apparently, VA uses a different word for blanket policy and can thereby nullify the law providing for our benefits.

No C-123 claims will be permitted to be approved, per VHA. They're right...none ever have been approved, although one denied claim was "reconsidered" once enough attention was generated by newspapers and legislators...LtCol Paul Bailey of Bath, NH. His claim was denied in Feb 2013 and reconsidered in August 2013, just after he entered hospice.

The VA blanket policy (I don't know the word VA uses to describe their universal denial of C-123 claims so I'll use that word for now) leaves only legislative relief, which is unlikely given our ages and illnesses, or federal court action. Court action is also unlikely due to the cost and well-known determination of VA to fight claims as far as possible, thus outspending any resources we might muster for the effort.

Nothing will ever help our claims get approved unless the Secretary takes notice of what has been done to us, or if DOD designates the C-123 spray planes retrospectively as Agent Orange Exposure Sites.

Even then, we can expect Compensation and Pension to fight every claim with passion. That’s their job, their mission. They do it well and with pride.

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