20 March 2015

VA C-123 Agent Orange Claims: Not "Case by Case" – Instead, All Are Ordered Denied

C-123 veterans have long maintained, and the VA disagreed, that all C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims are treated with a blanket denial. 

Indeed, the C-123 disability claims are all denied, and have been since the first was submitted over a decade ago.

Perhaps we and VA differ in our choice of words for describing this situation, but the fact of the matter is that every single C-123 exposure claim is directly or indirectly ordered denied. Veterans call it a blanket denial. VA calls the blanket denial a "case by case consideration." After which, VA orders all claims denied.
VA opposes our assertions of their blanket (or just insert a term such as universal, uniform, categorical, absolute, complete, total)  C-123 claims denial program because they want an image of more thoughtful, legal consideration of veterans' claims. VA is also somewhat mindful of the United States Constitution and its Fifth Amendment. Included in that amendment is the concept of Due Process. 

VA seeks to deny due process of C-123 veterans' claims but avoid characterization of such an action as a denial of Due Process...VA instead terms their total denial program "case by case consideration." 

That phrase implies VA's determination to carefully examine the merits under law and regulation of each claim, but in fact, it means VA denies 100% of the claims...one by one, each and every one of them, and carefully trains its claims adjudicators in the convoluted process, necessarily bizantine to prevent claim approvals without actually stating it directly.

Friday, commenting on its VA "case by case" process, spokesperson Bessie Griseto told the Dayton Daily News that "No case is the same." 

We beg to differ: C-123 cases are all the same because they are all denied. Every single one of them. Identical. All refused, despite complete satisfaction with VA's own VAM21-1MR regulation, denied with the pretense of just and fair consideration.

Here's how.

VA trains its service officers carefully, including with training lessons on Agent Orange exposures. Some rating officials even go so far as to state that "regulations prohibit" such awards. When Senate staffers pointed out to VA no such regulations exist, VA simply told the raters to continue denying claims but use different language. Say something else, but make sure you deny the claims, seems their approach.

In fact, any veteran establishing fact-proven Agent Orange exposure is to be treated with the same presumption of service connection as Vietnam veterans. Here's how VA instructs claims service officers, incorrectly. VA writes that exposure claims can only be approved under either presumption of exposure, or concession by VA to an exposure event claim. VA then states that because neither of these apply to C-123 and other claims, there is no legal basis for an award. 

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