20 January 2015

Department of Defense Passes The Buck - and veterans pay!

Who is the Decision-Maker on AO Sites?
Help is needed on this issue, please. Even some questions in the right place might resolve things.

Our own former Ranch Hand C-123 aircraft, having sprayed over 615,000 gallons each of Agent Orange plus thousands more of other toxic herbicides, are not considered to be among the DOD group of Agent Orange locations for testing, storage, evaluation or transportation. The agency responsible, the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, declined to do so and rejected repeated requests, including three managed through General Fedder in the OSD. From FOIA papers, it seems the request had initial concurrence from SECDEF but stumbled at AFPMB who recommended denial. Repeatedly.

One list shows US sites and the web site states it was supplied to VA by DOD. There is a published hard-copy second list, prepared by Dr. Al Young through Battelle as a DOD response to a VA request. A third list is another online list of outside Vietnam sites, again attributed to the DOD, to whom VA repeatedly referred me for a solution – hopefully including former Ranch Hand C-123s somewhere.

How can a C-123, the principal delivery vehicle for Agent Orange not qualify, yet the soil which it sprayed does? How can these aircraft, which carried an average of over 615 loads of 1000 gallons each not be considered transport or storage sites? How can the planes not be listed even though tested by the Air Force and their contamination established over the decades?

Nobody in DOD or VA seems to be the owner of these lists yet VA cites the absence of anything not on DOD lists as justification for denial of exposure claims, per VA M21-1MR. A veteran serving at one of the places named on a list doesn't automatically qualify him/her as "exposed" but the veteran's claim of service at some place not on a list is disqualifying in most instances.

Joint Services Records Research Center also cites the DOD lists in responding to VA's inquiries about veterans' claims but helpfully, references CDC sources for the airplanes' toxicity.

If any authority or reference, such as these DOD lists, is cited by the government to deny a citizen's rights and privileges, it must be accurate or the citizen's rights to due process are abridged. To refuse its amendment, which seems here to be the VA's responsibility because VA in each instance is credited with requesting the information and it is VA which cites the DOD lists in VA regulations, is only to prevent claims and not to properly adjudicate them.

I also believe AFPMB's response flies in the face of DODI 6055.5 as well as US Army TG312, and the intent of Air Force Manual 48-155 and OSHA requirements detailed in 29 CFR 1910.1450 (as regards Air Reserve Technicians exposed in civil service status, and perhaps traditional Reservists as well.)

It is also wrong-headed buck-passing which harms veterans. None of our rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments were sacrificed by serving in the United States military. Due Process is denied us by this inaction and we remind authorities of their personal oaths to support and defend the Constitution.

Now would be a good time.

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