VA's C-123 Committee should be guided in large part by Board of Veterans Appeals decisions over these last many years.
VA should realize that existing regulations, a decade of very specific Federal Register publications, well-established science even before the 9 January 2015 Institute of Medicine report, and the historical record all led Veterans Law Judges to their 100%* approval of C-123 appeals.
Every single one*. Even without the impact of the IOM report. Before the Joint Services Records Research Center began confirming C-123 aircraft exposures per VA M21-1MR (clearly detailed in Part IV Subpart ii Chapter C Section C.) With no new regulation, no new legislation, no need for additional Federal Register explanations. No need for any delay keeping our veterans from submitting claims for fair consideration, and on award finally allowed to enter VA hospitals.
No reason and certainly no excuse for VA to continue saving money by keeping our folks out of their hospital wards. A simple field training letter should do the trick.
Decisions by the Board of Veterans Appeals do not set precedent for other veterans' claims.
Everyone, including C-123 veterans, understands that quite well. What those decisions do, however, is offer an example of expert thought process by the Veterans Law Judges.
That example is an important one which the committee set up within Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration might consider carefully.
Because every BVA decision has been in favor of Reserve and Air Guard C-123 veterans.*
The point is that all claims which have been denied by BVA (and that is every single C-123 claim that ever was submitted*) have been reversed and awarded by the careful consideration at BVA.
BVA Veterans Law Judges had available to them in their decisions today's VA regulation VA M21-1MR, the veterans' medical information, and the historical and scientific information about these former Vietnam War Agent Orange spray warplanes.
BVA decisions are based on applicable law and the interpretation of the overall situation. Awards are made when the law's requirements are met. Any question, any interpretation, is made in a pro-veteran and non-adversarial manner. Issues in dispute are resolved in the veteran's favor if evidence reaches "as likely to as not" threshold.
BVA judges have shown for years that C-123 veterans' claims need nothing more in law or regulation to be awarded when appropriate. VA could do it today.
Friends of veterans, C-123 aircrews, maintainers and aerial port veterans have reached and far surpassed that threshold!
VA has benefited hugely by blocking C-123 claims for these years. Our vets have been denied VA medical care, pharmacy, rehab, counseling, independent living assistance, Chapter 20, children's educational benefits and allowances, burial, prosthetics, and compensation for their service-associated illnesses.
Any further delay, any further effort by VA to save more money by postponing the full inclusion of C-123 veterans into the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration protections is unconscionable.
BVA already showed the VHA committee that nothing else is needed.
All VA has to do is open their doors and understand that C-123 veterans have established presumptive service connection for the recognized Agent Orange illnesses.
Just as we have done for many, many years, only to find our claims wrongly decided against us.
To us, there is no part of "clear" remaining. All is perfectly clear: JSRRC, USAFHRA, IOM, VA M21-1MR, 1991 Agent Orange Act. Clear as can be and not needing any new regulation nor Federal Register posting to make any clearer.
Keep that word in your mind, dear VA. Clear.
Clear on 31 August 2010 in the Federal Register Volume V, No. 168, page 53205. Clear? Any effort to make more clear only clouds the issue with attendant delay in providing the medical care we're all focused on, and that is unethical and contrary to VAM21-1MR itself.
A point where we take offense. The entire VA application process is build around the term "compensation." This is deceptive. Most non-veterans, and too many folks in the media, don't understand that vets are not permitted any care until their claims...in a process called compensation claims"...are decided.
At our ages, and our illnesses, we feel the process should be termed "medical care application" instead of compensation claim. Financial compensation may indeed follow if appropriate, but even a zero percent service connection permits the medical care to be provided a veteran.
Stop making us look like we're financially motivated We take offense.
We're looking hard for VA heros...volunteers welcome! Be one!
*All of them, other than LtCol Aaron (Tim) Olmsted's claim which was denied on appeal for the ridiculous reason given by the Board's opposing attorney that Tim hadn't shown his C-123s had ever been in Vietnam.
That was an obvious error by BVA and perhaps also an ethical question which should be raised in conversation with the attorney who skillfully blocked Olmsted's claim by such deception. VA has a duty to assist veterans in claims and the proof of Tim's airplane Agent Orange background took one email and a couple days to obtain when the veterans inquired. Why didn't the VA inquire?
Why the vicious motivation of the VA opposing attorney to win even in the face of VA's errors and the veteran's eligibility? We don't understand why the American Legion which represented Olmsted in his appeal failed to right this wrong, but it is still on the table in our conversations with VA officials.