22 September 2014

Compensation & Pension Service Orders ALL C-123 Claims Denied

Assurances from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to the Senate, and assurances by the Under Secretary for Benefits, that "C-123 veterans' claims will be considered on a case-by-case" basis have proved to be empty promises.

Every veteran has the right to have a disability claim considered on the merits of the situation, and not dismissed by some broad pronouncement of a VA official's personal agenda. Falsely, C-123 veterans are assured on VA web pages that our Agent Orange exposure claims will be evaluated on the facts and the law.

But in four separate situations VA has clearly demonstrated how they denied us due process, and blocked medical care needed by our veterans. We claim protection under the Due Process Clause because we've established that we are veterans, that we have Agent Orange-recognized illnesses and we have a large body of evidence to persuade. At this point, according to Cushing and other decisions, Due Process applies!

1. In 2012 the VA's Agent Orange consultant summarized the perspective of Compensation and Pension in his report, "Investigations into the Allegations of Agent Orange/Dioxin Exposure from Former Ranch Hand Aircraft." On page 25 he confirms VA's decision to order all C-123 claims denied, writing, "The Compensation Service recommended that such claims associated with Agent Orange exposure be denied service-connection." Then he reveals the contradiction VA created by concluding that paragraph with VA's own empty promise, "Veterans who believe they have exposure- related health problems may file a claim for disability compensation. These claims will be decided on a “case-by-case basis”  These statements are at opposite ends of the logic spectrum.

2. The VA arranged to have post-Vietnam Agent Orange issues reviewed by a contractor (Contract VA-101-12-C-0006.) That contractor was already of the firm opinion that our claims for service connection were without merit. In 2011 he described those of us seeking VA medical care as "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman."
His contempt for us was reflected in the effort he and VA spent, with his unique sole-source no-bid $600,000 contract resulting in four separate reports attacking the basis of our claims, plus his appearance before the Institute of Medicine on June 16 to detail the VA's basis for refusing our claims. Nothing wrong with him getting business wherever he may find it, but completely inappropriate for VA to use this particular prejudiced individual's services against us.
All six major veterans service organizations have complained to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, objecting to the relationship between VA and this contractor.
The contractor is welcome to his business wherever he can find it, and he certainly has an unequaled historical grasp of Agent Orange issues. His previously-expressed distain for C-123 veterans, however, makes his input completely unacceptable as regards our VA health care.

3. As shown in VA training materials released via our lawsuit to enforce Freedom of Information Act requests, Veterans Health Administration instructs claims officials that no amount of scientific information supporting C-123 veterans' exposure claims will be permitted to weigh against VHA's decision that it is insufficient. Dozens of experts from other federal agencies, universities, medical schools, schools of public health and state governments agree that C-123 veterans have been exposed and harmed...but VA prefers the opinions of its Agent Orange contractor and the two scientists sponsored by Dow and Monsanto.

4. BVA attorneys have been successful fighting Agent Orange appeals by somehow convincing the administrative law judges that VA regulations forbid recognizing exposure claims other than Vietnam, Korean DMZ, certain Blue Water ships and Thai base perimieter. Statements like the following, used by BVA attorneys to keep veterans out of VA hospitals, are just plain false!
 "Citation Nr: 1413377: there are no studies that VA is aware of showing harmful health effects for any such secondary or remote herbicide contact that may have occurred."
"Citation Nr: 1337387: note, the Department of Veterans Affairs did address residual Agent Orange exposure concerns by post-Vietnam crews that later flew C-123 aircraft that had previously sprayed Agent Orange.  VA's Office of Public Health is noted to have thoroughly reviewed all available scientific information regarding the exposure potential to residual amounts of herbicides on the C-123 aircraft surfaces.  It was concluded that the potential exposure for the post-Vietnam crews that flew or maintained the aircraft was extremely low and therefore it was concluded that the risk of long-term health effects was minimal.  (See www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.)  Otherwise, other than his unsubstantiated allegations, there simply is no evidence that the Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides based on his contact with any military vehicle that may have once been used in Vietnam 

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