03 April 2015

Senator Blumenthal's Office: "Nothing soon from VA" to allow any C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims

VA C-123 Claims SITREP
Yesterday Senator Cory Gardner's (R-CO) staff informed us they'd just checked with Senator Richard Blumenthal's office and were told that no VA action is expected anytime soon. Blumenthal is Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and was briefed last Friday by VA on their confidential deliberations.

News like this of continuing VA delays comports with statements by VA spokesperson Ms. Meagan Lutz who informed reporters that VA now has no set date for any C-123 Agent Orange announcement, in effect, an indefinite postponement of the announcement first promised for the first week in March.

Different VA sources have offered different reasons for the delays. After the Institute of Medicine published its January 9 2015 C-123 Agent Orange report which confirmed exposures, VA was supposed to formulate a response within 60 days. Whatever the reason(s) the effect is that VA's ban on medical benefits for these Agent Orange-exposed veterans will continue just as it has since 2011, with all claims denied per Compensation and Pension. Claim delays are money-savers for VA.

Compensation and Pension is the VA function which has ordered Agent Orange exposure claims denied on the basis that other federal agencies' confirmation of C-123 exposures are unacceptable to VA, and that dioxin (the toxin within Agent Orange) has somehow "not been shown to be harmful." Of course, dioxin is recognized elsewhere in VA and throughout science as the most toxic toxin made by humans and a known carcinogen. VA later wrote that it had used "an unfortunate choice of words" but the claims are allowed to remain denied as was the objective.

The inference was clear:  as has been the case from the first, all such claims were to be denied no matter what, citing anything as basis, whether accurate or not.

Perhaps voices within the Department preferring a pro-veteran program in compliance with the law are in conflict with other folks, mostly in Post Deployment Health and VA's Agent Orange desk and other leaders in VA's C-123 committee, who prefer to continue their own agenda of denying benefits to C-123 veterans regardless of merit.

There is concern among the veterans that VA still might create a response which excludes, rather than includes, exposed veterans. We are about each of our men and women, and their families.

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