Our objective is to spread the $$ pain a bit beyond our house in Fort Collins and share the joy with
What does the money cover? Travel is the single largest bill. One foundation paid for one trip to DC, and the Vietnam Veterans of America paid for another special, last-minute trip which was important, and the rest I covered with the generous help of John, Harris, Arch, Legere, Clancy, Butler and other gentlemen...and a sweet lady from the Rickenbacker outfit. This year will have at least four trips: the Society of Toxicology in Phoenix last week, and three to Washington DC.
The DC trips are a big deal for us. Two will be to meet with the Agent Orange Committee of the Institute of Medicine. Although promised us two years ago at another meeting, this IOM project is underway with formal invitations out to the committee, and their work will be finished by the end of September. I meet with them early on in their deliberations, and again at the very end. The third known meeting is one organized by several senators' staffers who want the VA Compensation and Pension in the same room as the scientists who have been telling them we're exposed and should be treated.
And asking VA serious scientific and legal questions they've been dodging for three years!
Our immediate objective is to at least gain VA concession to approve valid claims between now and the release of the IOM report and the Secretary's reaction, probably around November. Too many of our men and women are in need of VA care now, need their VA disability compensation now, and eight more months waiting is eight more months in greater misery than can be permitted. C&P has to be stopped in their tracks for sending out boilerplate denials, dooming perfectly valid claims.
We also spend bucks on postage, printing, lots of ink and paper, small office equipment like label makers and paper binders...if something logical comes up I spend and if there are no group funds, I'm okay covering the gap. Fact of the matter is: I had my family's partnership in time, attention and money but they signed on for a year or two, but it is now a couple months into the fourth year. I want this wrapped up, you want it wrapped up, and the VA wants us to go away.
With a few bucks in the till, the C-123 veterans won't go quietly into the sunset!
BTW...we need a new chair for The C-123 Veterans Association. Maybe somebody from the flight deck or CAM, and maybe an NCO this time!! The officers aren't used to hard work and we really need a strong back and great mind leading us for a change!
El Jefe's Chores include:
1. creativity...how to move Congress and the VA by pretending to be the mouse that roared, even with fifty cents left in our pockets. For instance, gaining pro bono legal representation for last week's FOIA lawsuits against VA & USAF, and continuing my own claim as our poster child, hoping to get more than just Paul Bailey's to cite as awards short of BVA action. Getting a claim worked before the Court of Claims for Veterans Appeals will be foundational and that help has been offered us by a wonderful group of attorneys!
2. budget...pretending there is some money to do something useful
3. writing...maintain a blog and web presence, plus print items as needed such as speeches, white papers. Keep updating our C-123 iPad book
4. alliance building...we have the VVA, VFW and American Legion behind us, with less formal support from The Reserve Officer Association. Those folks have lobbyists, tacticians, attorneys, experience, we need to tap
5. support gathering...throw a net to get federal and state agencies to issue findings and opinions supporting us, as well as experts from universities; work with researchers
8. work with Senate and House staffs as they pressure VA and USAF for us. Big point...we need more veterans to urge more action from their senators as presently only six gentlemen are carrying our battle in the US Senate and they've asked why others aren't helping, especially from NH, CT and MA where most of our vets retired.
We need somebody besides an AME rep to lead us. Think about it...can you trust this project to an MSC officer, somebody who sleeps the entire mission? Horrors!
Don't you want to lead our motley crew to victory in this exciting guerilla advocacy program? Someday, this will make very exciting reading in the Washington Post, right Josh?
Man up, somebody, and volunteer to take the helm.