07 April 2014

US Army Fails to Respond to IG Inquiries: Months Pass Without Action

US Army Inspector General

Problems in Fort Belvoir!

In the Fall of 2012, C-123 veterans submitted concerns via proper channels to the US Army Inspector General regarding the Army's Joint Services Records Research Center, Fort Belvoir, VA. The concerns were the failure of proper interaction between JSRRC and the VA liaison office. VA inquiries to JSRRC were being returned with inadequate documentation which doomed C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims.

Initially, discovering the absence of JSRRC documentation and the subsequent VA denial of claims based on that JSRRC response, the C-123 veterans delivered in person hundreds of pages of official documentation.

Months have passed. And so have too many veterans, passed waiting for help from the Army!

JSRRC, Fort Belvoir, VA
JSRRC's archivists work only with official documentation. Unit histories, ship logs, after action reports, anything official. In our case, flight orders, C-123 dioxin test results, official correspondence, all such things were provided the Chief of JSRRC in person as well as via repeated emails. We were told they then had enough in hand to respond properly to VA inquiries.

We even provided input from the USAF Historical Records Research Agency regarding Patches and other other Agent Orange spray aircraft. Flight orders, Form 5s, AF test reports, correspondence.

Things seem to have broken down. First, we'd expected JSRRC to update their responses to earlier VA inquiries which had been improperly substantiated. That didn't happen. JSRRC explained they would provide such updates only to military or VA sources.

As of March 2014, VA still has JSRRC material denying any evidence of my own Agent Orange exposure dated 2012, before JSRRC's records were updated. That is because VA's liaison officer to the JSRRC, Mr. Sampsel, very deliberately does not ask for an update – that is to insure that only the initial, negative JSRRC documents are in VA files to insure that the exposure claims and appeals remain denied.
VA Mr. Sampsel informing Portland VA no info or acknowledgement of C-123 exposures; he has been provided that for his own VA files but defers to JSRRC, and then directs JSRRC which info to use or ignore on response

JSRRC info has been updated to adequately substantiate C-123 veterans' exposure to military herbicides. That even includes federal agency (CDC, NIH, EPA, US Public Health Service) interpretations of that AF test data and establishes the contamination and the veterans' harmful exposures. Mr. Sampsel, apparently, has directed JSRRC not to accept that information with his instructions that only MILITARY source documents will be acceptable, and discarding as well all the universities and other scientists who've analyzed the military documents to explain the veterans' exposure.

Further, Mr. Sampsel suggests PVARO continue in his own pretense that C-123 exposures were "secondary" or "remote." Not the case. Our exposures were direct skin-on-toxin as well as via inhalation. His clever but deceptive word switcheroo notwithstanding, exposure was direct and primary.

All this was detailed to the IG without response. For some reason, they asked for the details again, and were given it in great detail along with supporting documentation. Complaints went to our congressional representatives, who were told the VA has faithfully asked JSRRC for C-123 information, and told by the JSRRC that they have at least three "acceptable" military source documents to use, but nothing has changed.

Why? VA needs to prevent or at least delay veterans from entering their system, at least, Agent Orange exposed veterans not specified by law as eligible for VA care. The law also provides that veterans outside the Vietnam Boots on the Ground population will be treated if they prove exposure...and using a negative JSRRC response is an important element in VA's ability to refuse care. By keeping accurate JSRRC information from being fed to the VA, VA can deny claims.
JSRRC negative response, dooming VA exposure claim. Amazingly, VA is even referred back to its own incorrect web pages to help deny the veteran's exposure claims. Despite requests to JSRRC and to VA and to Congressional representatives, JSRRC has not updated this 2012 response even though JSRRC acknowledges it now has updated archival materials confirming the veterans' exposures aboard the C-123 fleet, blocked by VA maneuvers to prevent accurate and complete information from interfering with claim denials

Veteran with exposure claim
Obviously this problem might straighten itself out based on the solid evidence once the veteran's claim reaches the BVA, but even there VA wins...they've been able to delay providing care for the three to five years a BVA appeal requires.

From their VA perspective, hopefully the veteran is dead by that time and VA is faced with only the goal of obstructing the survivor's claims and prevent paying burial costs...that's another battle but VA delays, delays, medical care at the most important time.

Another victory using delay tactics, stalling a sick veteran's claim for years: get the vet discouraged enough with the claims that they seek treatment through Medicare or private insurance. Thank them for their service, then show 'em the door. Veterans sick with prostate cancer get their treatment outside the VA system and VA saves costly medical care by thrusting it onto private insurers...or the vet postpones treatment altogether.

VICTORY! Another valid claim denied
Remember: The vet files for VA disability when the vet is already ill. By design, VA has the claimant wait two years or so to have VA issue their automatic denial. The vet then waits two to three years, sometimes five, for Board of Appeals final justice.

Four to seven years, when the veteran has been already diagnosed with illnesses such as ALS, soft tissue sarcoma, heart disease...those years are critical to the patient seeking life-saving medical care, but also critical to the VA seeking to avoid providing that expensive life-saving medical care. The partnership between JSRRC and VA insures millions of dollars in avoided medical care for Agent Orange exposed veterans...and it is a highly successful partnership. To VA, this is a take-it-home and brag about it to the family victory to be proud of. And they are so very proud.

Repeat: The vet is already ill and VA established a delay system preventing any care at all letting for around four to seven years...that saves big, big bucks!

The catch-up financial compensation is nothing compared to costly medical care for a terminally ill multisymptom vet. VA avoids the most expensive part of a veteran's lifetime of medical requirements.

JSRRC still has its two-year old negative response to the Portland VARO inquiry,and no update with correct information.  There has been a very deliberate decision by VA to avoid any request to JSRRC for an update, because that would support the veteran's claim rather than insure it being denied.

Compounding the problem, the Army's IG has avoided any action on an official IG complaint to them for over six months in the face of people being denied VA medical care for want of Army assistance.

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