How long might we and our families have to wait for VA to act on the C-123 Agent Orange exposure situation?
FIRST FACT: VA could do what's needed tomorrow. Checking with legal scholars specializing in veterans law, and re-reading the Yale University School of Law C-123 report, it is clear that no new legislation is necessary to permit C-123 veterans into the VA healthcare system.
Previous announcements in the Federal Register addressing non-Vietnam herbicide exposures detail VA assurance of treating us with presumptive service connection, and VA's regulation VAM21-1MR (which courts said "has the force of law") have language already in place...so nothing need be done except – do it!
Note: in comments to the Springfield (MA) Republican published 2/3/2015, a VA spokeswoman said it will take VA "several months." UNCONSCIONABLE FOOT DRAGGING! What does Post Deployment Health calculate to be our veterans' death toll between January 9 (release date for the IOM report) and "months" later?
SECOND FACT: VA could drag this out beyond our imagination. They could imagine that new legislation is necessary to do what they already have authority to do, and VA Office of General Counsel could direct the whole thing to die by pretending to ask Congress for new legislation. Any legislation coming from that might be enacted, but only years after the last of us has had the final fly-over. They know this. Going to the legislature to ask for authority or guidance VA already has just won't cut it with either house.
THIRD FACT: Next-to-worst case is VA dragging out approval by waiting out the 60 days permitted after an IOM report. Then, burning off another 60 days proposing new regulations with a Federal Register posting (which would only be a repeat of their earlier statements) and then 90 days after that to effect new regulation. VA might see this as a present to us wrapped with a beautiful silk bow – but its not. Seven months to men and women our ages, with our diseases, brings a certain death count and VA knows this perfectly well.
Truth is truth, and VA has the truth in hand now from the IOM report. It is the same truth VA had on their desks seven to eight years ago – when more of us were alive. Truth, law, science together should move VA to make the right decision by us, but it sure would have been welcome those many years ago.
In their last Federal Register comment regarding non-Vietnam Agent Orange ("military herbicide") exposures, VA made their planned treatment of us clear. Very clear. Perfectly clear.
VA even used that very word. What part of "Finally, we wish to make clear" has been left unclear? Of course, VA made this commitment to the Congress and the American people before we came along with our exposure claims but I just can't imagine the Department...the Secretary in particular...reneging on making it "clear."