02 September 2015

Finally Heard from VA – HURRAH

Good work, VA!
Yesterday I received a call from a VA service officer to discuss my Agent Orange claim. First submitted in 2011, it was personally denied by Mr. Tom Murphy's comment that TCDD (the toxin in Agent Orange) hasn't been shown to be harmful to humans. Mr. Murphy wrote that CDC, EPA, NIH, DOD, the National Toxicology Program, US Public Health Service, and the dozens of independent scientists and physicians confirming our exposures were all unqualified to confirm C-123 veterans' exposures.

Mr. Murphy insisted he was right, and the scientists and government agencies, including the Department of Defense, were wrong. In his office on February 28 2013, Mr. Murphy explained the issue had already been decided by VA's Post Deployment Public Health group in Veterans Health Administration and that no C-123 claims were to be approved. None. That's apparently what VA leaders meant by "every C-123 claim evaluated on a case-by-case basis" when the Senate accused them of a C-123 blanket denial policy. Clearly, VA had a universal blanket denial of C-123 claims, however VA chose to describe their 100% denial record.

Mr. Murphy's insistence that Agent Orange was harmless, later referred to by VA officials as "an unfortunate phrasing," doomed the claim despite reams of medical and scientific justification which first led the Portland VARO to recommend approval. Apparently VBA's Agent Orange Desk was the originator of the Murphy opinion, and for years that staffer wrote that VA had "an overwhelming preponderance of evidence against C-123 claims...not because there was any such evidence but because he felt the claims must be prevented. Actually, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was, as the Institute of Medicine concluded, C-123 veterans were exposed and were harmed.

My claim for Agent Orange benefits per the 1991 Agent Orange Act to address Agent Orange illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure was denied because Mr. Murphy wrote that Agent Orange is harmless. A great surprise to science and medicine which consider TCDD a potent human carcinogen.

So, too, does the CDC. They wrote VA that C-123 veterans were exposed to Agent Orange at 182-times safety threshold, and face a 200-fold greater cancer risk. Mr. Murphy wrote that CDC was not qualified to comment, nor were any other scientists qualified to comment. On February 28 2913 he explained to me that VA had already determined none of the C-123 claims were to be approved. Regardless of the amount of evidence from whatever source, every claim was to be denied because VHA Post Deployment Health had already decided the issue. Mr. Murphy expressly stated that no amount of evidence would suffice...the decision was already made to deny every C-123 claim.

Compensation and Pension ordered my claim denied. They didn't use those exact words...they just said it couldn't be approved. Seems like the same thing to me. Then VA insisted to everyone that each claim "was carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis" before it was automatically denied.

So yesterday was wonderful. I had a good conversation with an expert claims worker and now I feel encouraged that after more than four years, my claim seems to be moving along. VA is also looking over my appeals, so perhaps those won't have to wait more years in the BVA queue.

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