08 March 2014

Can We Speak? C-123 Vets Seek Voice on Veterans Benefits Web Site

One of the best, most useful veterans' benefits sites is Veterans Benefits Network. Three years ago, that's where the late Paul Bailey and I started learning about this Agent Orange/C-123 issue.

It has been difficult to express our situation on that site. Veterans Benefits Network which is privately owned and run to the views of the owner...totally correct and if our views are not appropriate, it is totally appropriate for the owner of that site to restrict expression in any manner...freedom of the press, in this instance, is his, not ours. We agree totally. 

The owner feels we agitate for changes in benefits laws, or keep repeating the same arguments over and over. We do not seek any changes in law or rule changes via the Federal Register. We try not to repeat, and write about news such as the recent Yale Law study or the Environmental Research article.

We disagree with our host on Veterans Benefits Network only in that we feel we need the readership of that board to help us, through their voice and through their advice. Here is our most recent posting:

As the VBN posts will show, I try to provide links to source documents so any interpretation I may inadvertently add can be read in the original for yourselves:

One of the frequent references I make is to the Federal Register of 31August 2010. Why this? Because the Register is how agencies of the Executive Branch comply with various requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. Here they announce how the government will act in regards to laws. On August 31, 2010, the VA made one of the most important announcements in the Register in recent years, acting on recommendations of the 2008 Institute of Medicine report, on page 53202:
"This document amends the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adjudication regulations concerning presumptive service connection for certain diseases based upon the most recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine committee report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008 (Update 2008). This amendment is necessary to implement the decision of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that there is a positive association between exposure to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease. The effect of this amendment is to establish presumptive service connection for these diseases based on herbicide exposure."
This was obviously important, and well-implemented in the VA with the exception of the overburdening of the claims process. Just as important, just as firm a requirement upon the VA (of course, how they interpret the requirement is for them to decide) was their announcement of how VA would respond to exposures outside the Boots on the Ground population. It is not pulling anything out of context, nor selecting only parts of documents useful to a claim, to show the part of this important Federal Register announcement of interest to C-123 veterans, on page 53205:
"Finally, we wish to make clear that the presumptions of service connection provided by this rule will apply to any veteran who was exposed during service to the herbicides used in Vietnam, even if exposure occurred outside of Vietnam." 
Why was the issue of exposure to vets outside Vietnam addressed? Because earlier Congress had asked the VA if VA wanted new legislation to make sure...that's the language...to make sure...such exposures were addressed. VA responded to Congress via the rule-making Register, "WE WISH TO MAKE CLEAR", and then repeated the rule they first issued (same thing) on 8 May 2005 (page 23166.) So, to finish our contributions here, or "arguments" as they are viewed by many, please see that the Federal Register brought important news to all herbicide-exposed veterans, including C-123 folks. There is no wrong in us pointing to the language and asking directly of VA, as well as indirectly through veterans organizations and media like this, for VA to help us understand what part of exposure isn't exposure? 

Even the Board of Veterans Appeals cites this in overturningpoor VARO claim decisions on exposure. BVA didn't take it "out of context." Neither did we.

If the "exposure" part of this Federal Register rule by the VA isn't important, isn't the part extending the illnesses also unimportant? Wouldn't IHD patients point to the language of the Register? We point to "exposure" as the rule.

God bless!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got something to share? Nothing commercial or off-topic, please.