25 November 2014

VA Violates 2010 Order from US Circuit Court of Appeals

Veterans Benefits Administration has violated a 2010 order from the US Circuit Court of Appeals. VA had been ordered to publish, and to implement, various rules involving Agent Orange exposure and veterans' benefits. The order flowed from a petition for a writ of mandamus from several veterans organizations and the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

And involved was the eligibility – the right – of C-123 veterans to exposure benefits.

The court approved the request for the writ and ordered the Secretary to publish in the Federal Register the changes in benefits recommended shortly before by the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine. The 1991 Agent Orange Act states that the Secretary has 60 days to implement such changes and the writ enforced that timely response upon the VA, which VA had been stalling on for too long.

The VA complied with the order, and on August 30 2010 published in the Federal Register the required rule changes bringing into effect the recommendations from NAS. C-123 veterans are directly affected in two ways:
1. The announcements in the Federal Register are binding upon VA 
2. The announcement on August 30 2010 included the VA's statement that no revision on VA regulations (VA 21-1MR) was necessary to address non-Vietnam exposure claims because VA would presume all such situations with recognized Agent Orange illnesses resulting would be treated the same as Vietnam veterans' "presumptive service connection"

So now VA has dodged its obligations to C-123 veterans by redefining "exposure" to prevent acknowledging C-123 veterans' fact-proven exposure claims. Setting up a definition of exposure unique to federal government medical and scientific agencies, VA defies opinions submitted by DOD, USPHS, CDC, EPA, NIH and other authorities to pretend this group of vets were never exposed at all.

And in this deception, not only do they defy their own rules, which courts have said have the rule of law, but they defy the US Circuit Court of Appeals. This is because, having published as ordered the changes recommended by the NAS, VA opts to avoid enforcing them and has for years refused to permit C-123 veterans to receive VA medical care.
VA Announcement in Federal Register
30 August 2010

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