Thanks to generous burden sharing by other C-123 vets on the travel expenses ($1731) involved, I was able to meet for two days with the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation in Washington DC.
This committee reports directly to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Even if items not specifically on their agenda are being discussed, getting our information into the minutes of their meetings is a way to directly inform the Secretary of our issues.
My presentation to the committee was prompted by an article in ProPublica published on June 12. In it, the manager of the VA Agent Orange desk spoke negatively about our C-123 issues. I felt it needed correction so I had an appointment with the Committee to make presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The VA fellow had described Agent Orange to the committee as nothing more than hype and hysteria. He betrayed once again the VA tendency to ignore evidence supporting veterans' claims and instead construct a negative view on their claims.
That was Tuesday's talk, and on Wednesday I had the opportunity to discuss VA ethics that have been in free-fall for quite some time. I offered examples where our medical information had been shared inappropriately and our claims discussed sarcastically.
Interesting: Before the committee began work on Wednesday, a letter of apology from the VA Agent Orange Desk manager about his statements in March 2017 was read aloud.
I was privileged to give these presentations on behalf of our C-123 Association, the Vietnam Veterans of America and Colorado's 460,000 members of the United Veterans Committee. The Wednesday presentation on ethics had not been preapproved by these other organizations and thus I spoke solely as a member of the C-123 Veterans Association.
We're coming to the view that this one key individual in VA has been an extremely negative impact on our years of Agent Orange claims. This person, VBA's Agent Orange Desk manager, can be fairly considered to be anti-veteran. We find him unacceptable as a key decision maker on our claims and we must bring to the Secretary’s attention his many shortfalls.
On Tuesday morning I had a meeting with Katrina Eagle, a prominent veterans legal representative. That was followed by a meeting with the law firm providing us pro bono assistance on the lawsuit against the Air Force for a line of duty determination covering our exposures.
A busy three-day trip!