01 May 2015

How Can (or Should) SECVA Address C-123 Agent Orange Claims"

We have maintained since first reading the Federal Register statements by VA about non-Vietnam Agent Orange exposures that the Secretary has every authority needed to act now. Without delay and without unnecessary legislation.

We also felt it was appropriate to also skip additional regulations. After all, three times VA explained to Congress and the people that VA would act to treat all non-Vietnam veterans' exposures the same as Vietnam veterans' exposures as regards presumptive service connection.

Why? Because a new regulation has to be published in the Federal Register and a period for public comment provided. The comment period, anywhere between thirty and ninety days, is to invite as broad a response from the public and stakeholders as possible. Sometimes, even 180 days might be provided. Whatever the comment period, that's time our folks are bared from VA hospital and other federal and state benefits...time we no longer have to fritter about waiting for VA to get itself organized.

So we'd recommended a comprehensive training letter instead. Telling the VBA and VHA staffs, especially claims adjudicators, that VA would henceforth recognize C-123 veterans' Agent Orange claims seemed a logical, simple and expedient approach.

If this mess is ever resolved without legislation, it will require such a training letter, or a new regulation under the Secretary's present authority.  If it is to be a regulatory approach, we can only hope that the comment period will be the minimum thirty days, and that some interim steps might be provided for meeting veterans' needs while the process plays out.

It has been years. There are so many fewer of us today than in 2011 when we began. VA: do something.

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