We have a list of very serious concerns that's been given to the highest levels of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and they have executives there working hard to set right the C-123 Agent Orange exposure mess. It will be less of a mess if we work together. VA is on it!
This is a result of VA pushing for and funding the recent C-123 IOM report, and a result of their embrace of the report's recommendations. It is also a result of four years which veterans spent advocating for justice.
That long effort and the very serious impact of the delay in VA permitting us medical care leaves us anxious.
Word today from VA senior leadership: "We are aggressively working the issue."
Just what VA does to flesh out the IOM recommendations remains to be seen. Their committee, under Dr. Ralph Erickson, is reported (as above) to be hard at work getting their (OUR!) program in place. We've talked and exchanged emails, but nothing is actually revealed of their plans, worries, timing, scope of coverage...nothing explained yet. They're careful discussing anything they can't deliver.
Let's give them the time to do this without unnecessary carping or pushing through proxies.
The particulars of the problems we've placed at the VA's doorstep can be resolved in the near future, without any further urging on our part. "OBE," as the VA puts it – overcome by events.
We ask that the VA decision on Agent Orange benefits be quick
and comprehensive, and our views are there already for VA's consideration. If they want more input we're ready at any time.
For the most part, VA has always done the best with what its been given. What they're given now is a big chore...pinning down all the AFSCs involved in hands-on support and flying the C-123 fleet between 1972-1982.
Our view is that present rules and regulations, if followed properly, already cover C-123 veterans. No new law, regulation, or announcement in the Federal Register is needed: that's already been done multiple times and need not be repeated with the sole effect of wasting months.
We must expect that the attitude of the committee members is supposed to be more "how to include" rather than "how to minimize" coverage of affected veterans. The IOM report was six weeks ago, and we'll remain concerned about whether VA can bring the necessary changes into action sooner rather than later. One more month would be a good goal.
They've asked, so let's show we can partner with them even if the only role they ask for us is quiet and patient anticipation...for now.
We are asked to place our faith in General Hickey VBA, in Dr. Erickson in VHA and in their teams – so let's do it and let our gripes about the small stuff "OBE."
Time to rely on their leadership...they've offered it to us.