09 March 2014

Exposure: Rights vs. Duties Regarding C-123 Veterans

The C-123 veterans have a right to military herbicide exposure benefits. There has been proof submitted far, far past the "as likely to as not" threshold.

Veterans Benefits Administration has the duty to respect the rights of C-123 veterans, and the duty not to construct their unique barriers to our access to VA medical care. The personal views of individuals dedicated to preventing care of C-123 veterans, clearly qualified under the law and regulations implemented by the VA in respect to law and regulations, is inappropriate and ethically questionable.

The duty of Veterans Benefits Administration to provide exposure benefits to only those veterans with the right to such benefits is clear. The duty of the Department of Veterans Affairs to protect medical and financial resources is clear.

The duty of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide C-123 veterans submitting proof of military herbicide exposure is clear. The evidence of C-123 exposure, the legal basis for C-123 veterans' rights to exposure benefits, is clear. Both have been carefully documented to many senior executives in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Proofs have been either rebuffed or ignored, even by General Counsel which is the Department's chief ethical investigations officer.

Full facts of the C-123 veterans' exposure claims have been provided the Secretary, Under Secretary Hickey, General Counsel, Director Compensation and Pension, Director Public Health and Chief Consultant for Post Deployment Health. The decision by these officials not to respect their duty to correct the improper denial of C-123 veterans is unwise and inappropriate, and harmful to the veterans' well-being.

Selection of consultants to opine on C-123 veterans' exposure claims is inappropriate if those consultants have already and repeatedly expressed conclusions over decades that the veterans were not exposed or if exposed, such exposures were harmless, and could reliably be expected to repeat their convictions rather than examine new evidence or perspectives. Selection is especially questionable if the consultants were selected after the C-123 veterans had already submitted to VA leadership objections to the consultant's earlier expressed contempt for the subjects of the study. The situation leaves scientific objectivity of the work product an issue. Selection of consultants also leaves objectivity of the Department an issue of even greater concern.

The Senate Veterans Committee has been briefed along with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

JSRRC should be asked to provide a full detailing of military documentation addressing C-123 exposure issues, including a Memorandum for Record as with Blue Water Navy and Thailand veterans, such a precedent for memoranda now well established. VA should not control which documents JSRRC may utilize to respond to veterans' claims, especially when other government agency input is in the scientific analysis of military source documents and tests. Preventing input from government agencies such as US Public Health Service and its Commissioned Officers is inappropriate, as these officers are commissioned military officers and physicians, meeting JSRRC and VA requirements.

VA senior-level decisions not to act on the clear and unmistakeable errors detailed to them is inappropriate, uncaring and discriminatory against the veterans. VA leadership has denied C-123 veterans VA medical care and other benefits for years since the earliest submissions of such proofs, without justification for this discrimination.

VA leadership assurances to veterans and their legislative representatives that no blanket policy exists prohibiting C-123 veterans' claims are inaccurate in the extreme...detailed boilerplate examples of how to deny all such claims constitutes a blanket policy to any observer.

VA's decision to seek another two year delay through an IOM study is a maneuver around mounting evidence, including recent juried scientific articles challenging VA and DOD exposure assessments. The same study, promised in 2012 but the promise broken that same year, would have addressed both the Department's and the veterans' concerns, but the broken promise is now reconstructed as another two-year barrier.

In all conscience, VA must either cancel the IOM project, or in the interim before VA action on any such IOM study, permit C-123 veterans' claims to be judged on their full merits and not obstructed by personal preferences of a small number of VA personnel, and by directions to VAROs to deny all such claims. If VA does not do this, the IOM must ask for such a provision.

Instructions should be provided VAROs that C-123 claims are welcomed by the Department. Veterans should be permitted exams under the Agent Orange Registry procedures. Exposure claims are to be judged on their merits and decisions permitted in favor of the veterans, rather than claims ordered denied by whichever VA staff now improperly directs such refusals.

Throughout VA web pages and published literature references are almost universally to "Vietnam veterans" but fail to provide proper language more inclusive of "veterans exposed to military herbicides elsewhere." VA decision to not use such inclusive language of qualification encourages systemic denial of all veterans exposed to military herbicides outside the "boots on the ground' cohort, as employees observing regulations or other literature see no permission to include C-123 veterans.

The "clear" language of the 31 August 2010 Federal Register must be observed. It was an obligation repeated after earlier assurances to the Congress that non-Vietnam exposures would be addressed properly. Inquiries to Compensation and Pension in accord with exposure claims per 
 M21-1MR, Part IV, Subpart ii, 2.C.10.should not be automatically responded to with Compensation & Pension orders to deny – as is now the case.

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