27 December 2014

VA "Releases" C-123 Agent Orange White Paper

Years ago the C-123 Veterans Association began filing, and the VA began ignoring, Freedom of Information Act requests for documents better detailing the VA knee-jerk position denying any and all C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims. Here's one of the more recent discoveries of how our rights to information about us are withheld so that claims are more easily denied by VA.

Well, it took a complaint filed through the US District Court in Washington, but VA finally yielded some (only some) of the requested documents. For reasons important to them, the attached memorandum touching on LtCol Paul Bailey's approved C-123 exposure claim resulted in internal turmoil as to how Manchester VA Regional Office had permitted such a thing. VA headquarters demanded the reasons for Manchester departing from the company line of denying the contamination of the airplane, and the exposure of the aircrews.

The Washington Post carried the Bailey decision prominently, as it followed by just days the Post's front-page story of Agent Orange and C-123 veterans.

Here's what is bewildering: The Vietnam War ended officially 41 year ago. The last Agent Orange spray missions were 43 years ago. The last C-123 retired to HAZMAT desert quarantine 32 years ago.

But still, VA executives and their staff attorneys decided that VA must withhold the core of this memo from the public and the veterans requesting this FOIA which VA attorneys had approved. This stuff is secret and must be kept from veterans and their advocates??

Redacted were two pages with only the front page title "White Paper" remaining. Apparently, VA in its dedication to provide the finest medical care for veterans, and to insure that every veteran presenting a disability claim receives the famous "benefit of the doubt"...decided that the very core of VA's determination to block all C-123 claims is to be kept secret.

So much for President Obama's assurance that freedom of information is a right of every citizen...and veteran...and the FOIA is fundamental to the American concept of democracy. They're treating us wrong here, making decisions against us and keeping their secrets from us! Here is what VA attorneys felt safe to make public, and I think we can all trust that if VA had uncovered absolutely convincing proof against our claims they'd have been eager to release it. However, if it contains materials which might assist vets in their claims...it is redacted!
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