30 January 2016

"An unfortunate choice of words" – how VA denied Agent Orange claim by insisting Agent Orange is harmless

Just received from the Department of Justice: DOJ has summarized VA's response to our inquiry regarding the famous statement used by VBA Compensation and Pension to deny a C-123 veteran's claim. VA actually ordered the claim denied by insisting there is no evidence of Agent Orange and its toxic component TCDD causing human health injuries.

Now, DOJ says that was "an unfortunate choice of words." Unfortunate but still adequate, however, for VA to have denied the claim for five years!

One of the first C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims faced the determined opposition of VBA's Compensation and Pension Service, a determined opposition which continues even years later, despite all scientific evidence.

Opposition (guided by VA's go-to consultant Dr. Al Young) which has included even denying Agent Orange claims by insisting that Agent Orange is somehow harmless and that Agent Orange benefits specified by Congress in the 1991 Agent Orange Law for Agent Orange exposure with resulting Agent Orange illnesses...claims which are to be denied on the personal whim of VA staffers annoyed at veterans seeking care. (sorry for the run-on sentence.)

C&P's view was that C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposures are to be blocked, despite meeting the requirements of the 1991 Agent Orange Act, and VA's own regulation VAM-21-1MR.

Portland's VA Regional Office forwarded a C-123 vet's claim to VBA's Agent Orange desk as required, with the field's recommendation for approval given the vast amount of supporting evidence and compliance with the law. Compensation and Pension responded with what has continued to be their blanket denial of all such claims. Here is what was just an early example of their extra-legal injection of personal attitudes into claim denials:

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