21 July 2015

C-123 Veterans' Comments Needed on VA Proposed C-123 Agent Orange Rule

Please help protest a particular point in the VA's proposed interim final rule dealing with C-123 Agent Orange claims. Veterans, you can do this by contacting your legislators and by submitting comments online at the Federal Register web page. 

Word your protest as you wish or consider the eight points I've listed below to include. 

The C-123 Veterans Association is trying hard to work with the VA on the issue of retroactive awards of our Agent Orange exposure claims. VA's proposed interim final rule addresses everything needed to provide our folks presumptive service connection for Agent Orange illnesses but it only recognizes claims from June 19 2015 forward.

VA states it will not permit retroactive claims, which VA does with other veterans' claims by back-dating compensation to the date the veteran files the claim with VA. In one instance, that has meant $130,000 to a post-Vietnam C-123 Reservist whose claim was decided before the rule VA now proposes. VA proposes that claims it delayed will be denied that retroactive adjustment, and that's wrong!

If the number of veterans VA expects to care for under the new rule generally have the same general original file dates as mine, for example, our veterans could be surrendering as much as $42,000,000 of back pay due us in this unfair process – that $133,000 apiece (four years times VA 100% SC.)

That is plain wrong! Wrong to punish us just because VA fought our claims which were proven valid by the IOM. Wrong to reward VA for denying us all benefits and compensation when their position against us is acknowledged to have been wrong even in the language of the Secretary's new rule.

So we will work hard on making this right. We have our arguments against VA's arbitrary date of June 19 2015 based on: 

1. Conflicts with earlier VA decisions by DRO & BVA that recognized fact-proven claims
2. Treats new claims differently than claims already awarded by VA
3. Forces veterans to surrender earned retroactive compensation without due process, even though these vets have faced years of denial of all VA care and benefits with claims unfairly denied with all facts now recognized in the Secretary's interim final rule. Everything the Secretary acknowledges in the details of the final rule was available to VA in 2011 yet VA failed to honor its duty to consider claims even on what it termed "a case by case" basis, forcing vets to seek care elsewhere or do without altogether. It would have been even a stronger case for acknowledging the claims had VA revealed the March 2013 report from the DOD Joint Services Records Research Center confirming the veterans' exposure, primary evidence VA officials suppressed contrary to VCAA.
4. Ignores VA OGC opinions' as mandatory precedents
5. Inserts a challenge on the issue veteran status not already raised in denied claims awaiting BVA or DRO - those claims were denied for scientific reasons now resolved by IOM but VA's new rule inserts a previously unvoiced challenge that C-123 folks weren't veterans, a point only possible by disregarding the OGC opinions
6. Ignores the March 2013 DOD JSRRC confirmation of the veterans’ exposures over two years earlier that should have forced recognition of the claims per VCAA and VA regulation VAM21-1MR
7. Fails to consider claims in a pro-veteran, non-adversarial, paternalistic and sympathetic manner as per law. VA fought to construct a barrier rather than letting itself remove one.
8. Abuses veterans rights through VA’s demonstrated intransigence in resolving the C-123 question when all evidence was available years earlier; VA uses the new rule to deny C-123 veterans benefits for the years VA stalled recognizing their claims, indeed, even ordering them postponed until the IOM, despite having all the convincing scientific and medical information in-hand all the years veterans claims were denied or delayed

Please go to the Federal Register web page to enter your comments! Today the VA blocked my comments above, so please lend your voice to the struggle.

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