they cast about to create reasons for that position. "NO" was their research objective.
Faced with veterans whose claims could very reasonably fit into VA's 21-1MR requirements, instead of seizing on existing rules, laws, scientific proofs and Federal Register commitments to include C-123 vets, Post-Deployment Health automatically sought ways to exclude, not to include.
Clear? The C-123 vets met each requirement of the VA's to be granted presumptive service connection. Perhaps rules could be interpreted different ways, but VA's only thought was to create interpretations against the C-123 vets. They stretched their rules, not to help us, but to exclude us.
So why the big NO when the law and science were behind the C-123 vets? VA found (created?) several of reasons:
1. VA already said no, and they remain defensive of that decision, unable to modify their position – they want the victory and they disregard the cost to us veterans over the last three years in terms of illnesses, deaths, medical & burial expenses, denial of care, etc. That would mean acknowledging their moral failures. Even if claims are eventually approved, VA saves money by delaying as long as possible (currently three to four years at BVA) to avoid providing medical care. Presently there are over a quarter million veterans' claims in appeal, meaning a quarter of a million vets denied medical care for the illnesses and injuries already established (unless otherwise qualified for VA care.) While VA managers decry the claims and appeals delays, the savings in medical care thereby could exceed a billion dollars each year*
2. Recognizing the C-123 veterans' service connection will cost VA money for health care and disability compensation. Presently C-123 veterans are denied VA medical care and have to make arrangements elsewhere, and are denied the VA peripheral care provided totally disabled vets (dental, rehab, pharmacy, counseling, prosthetics, vision, etc.)
3. VA has the attitude of having to "draw the line somewhere" regarding exposure benefits and will fight any post-Vietnam claims, as Post Deployment Health told the Associated Press
4. Recognizing C-123 post-Vietnam exposures potentially affects other toxic situations well beyond our small group. The White House has been deeply concerned with this since the beginning of Agent Orange concerns, as Peter Sill's box Toxic War perfectly illustrates
5. VA Office of General Counsel has become defensive to the point of insisting on the Department's power to redefine "exposure" to its own purposes; success in that redefinition could help VA oppose other exposure situations such as burn pits, dirty water, biohazards, etc.
|C&P Claims Motto|
7. Attitude. They don't like veterans arguing with them
7. Successful opposition to claims such as ours may result in extra praise in their annual performance reviews and perhaps, win them bonuses. They look more productive by denying claims then by approving them
8. Along with their consultants, VA recognizes the threat that would be caused by recognizing our unique long-term exposure. The differences between high intensity/short term exposures and our long term/low intensity exposures was recognized in the first Air Force study and continues to worry experts
9. VARO raters worry about opposing C&P which has ordered C-123 claims denied; raters take easy route of using the boilerplate claim denial language
10. Denying the claim gets it off the rater's desk and lets the veteran lose hope or at least, stick the claimant with a three-four year BVA wait
11. Encouraged by their "Agent Orange Never Hurt Anybody" consultants, Post Deployment Health eagerly accepted the bioavailability concept as a scheme as VA's end-run around the 1991 Agent Orange Act and Congress' elimination of the medical nexus requirement for exposure claims. Brilliant! VA redefines exposure to prevent exposure claims.
12. C&P has already directed C-123 claims denied on the basis of TCDD being harmless, and by citing non-existent VA "scientific studies" and non-existent "VA directives" and any change would necessitate revisiting the injustice of those denied claims
13. The longer VA delays, the more C-123 veterans die and claims die with them
* Harvard's Kennedy School of Government calculations using IEF statistics