31 January 2017

VA Ethical Failures: C-123 veterans' experiences with the VA claims system (free booklet)

...A Case Study of Unethical VA Actions: Agent Orange Claims by C-123 Veterans 2007-2015

C-123 veterans flew these former Agent Orange spray aircraft after the Vietnam War. The aircraft remained contaminated but in a long series of ethical shortfalls, the VA refused to acknowledge claims in the period 2007-2015.

Unethically, VA staff insisted they had imaginary “overwhelming preponderance of evidence against exposure claims, denying 100% of all claims while insisting VA also had no “blanket policy” against veterans’ applications. VA paid its favored consultant $600,000 in a unique no-bid, sole source contract to help block veterans’ claims.

VA staff violated regulation VAM21-1MR and the Veterans Claims Assistance Act, ignored exposure confirmation from CDC, US Public Health Service and dozens of other authorities, citing instead the VA website as the paramount authority. VA mislead elected representatives.

In January 2015 the Institute of Medicine confirmed crew exposures. in June 2015 VA finally began honoring disability claims but blocked all retroactive compensation normally provided once claims finished adjudication. Ethical failures were in advocacy, privacy, scientific accuracy, fairness, excellence, and respect.

Had VA adhered to their established value system, scandals like Phoenix and the abuse of C-123 exposure claims could have avoided to the benefit of all veterans and the Nation.

Going forward, VA needs to adhere to “I Care” values, and develop a measurement system for job performance in ethical values

Publisher The C-123 Veterans Association

28 January 2017

TSgt Bob Ranck Passed Thursday, January 26 2017

CHICOPEE – Robert E. “Bob” Ranck, 82, of the Fairview section of Chicopee, took “His Final Flight Home” on Thursday, January 26, 2017. He passed into Eternal Life at his home surrounded by the care and comfort of his loving family and his wonderful caregivers. He was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1934, a beloved son of the late Robert E. and Dorothy V. (Gray) Ranck. 
He was raised in Coatesville and was a graduate of Coatesville High School. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1953 and proudly served his country during the Korean War and received the National Defense Service Medal. He later re-enlisted and traveled throughout the United States while in the military.   In 1957, he was stationed at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee and, in 1963, he ended his active duty status while he was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. 
He eventually settled in the Fairview section of Chicopee and enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserves at Westover where he was employed as a Radio Radar Technician for the Department of Defense. 
He retired in 1984 after a long career in the Air Force with the rank of Technical Sergeant. 
He remained true to his Air Force family, participating in a long battle to gain recognition of claims brought on behalf of aircrews and maintainers who flew and worked on post-Vietnam C-123K Agent Orange “spray birds” after it was discovered that these men and women were being diagnosed with Agent Orange diseases. After years of administrative battles and litigation, the Department of Veterans Affairs conceded the legitimacy of these claims and opened its system of medical care and other benefits to suffering veterans.
Active in his Catholic faith, he was a communicant of Saint Anne Church in Chicopee. During his younger years, Bob formed a band called the Music Makers where he was a drummer. In his later years, he met monthly with his friends who were known as “The Geezers” from Westover Air Reserve Base. Above all, Robert was a quiet man who loved spending time with his family and his wonderful friends.
He leaves his beloved wife and best friend, Elinor M. (Paul) Ranck. They were married on April 19, 1958 at Saint Anne Church in Chicopee and were blessed with over 58 years of happiness together. 

27 January 2017


Today the VA issued a memorandum that I believe is in quiet defiance of a federal hiring freeze ordered by President Trump.
Refusing to set aside its obligations to veterans the VA, led by Acting Secretary Snyder, took extraordinary exception to the federal hiring freeze and said it would hire as necessary personnel for front-line medical care and safety.

Either the VA directly defined the president which I take as unlikely, or they went to the administration and fought for the necessary exemption. In the first case their actions could be overturned quite easily, But in the second case if the administration conceded to the VA's urging and authorized this action,  then all is well.

In fact, it speaks well for everyone involved.

The New York Times made a special point in their phrasing of the news:

"A few hours later, the acting secretary of veterans affairs, Robert D. Snyder, seemed to contradict the White House, saying in a brief statement that the department plans to “exempt anyone it deems necessary for public safety, including front-line caregivers.”
Putting it in the best light possible, VA said their actions were "in the best spirit" of the President's intentions. CLICK for the press release describing the VA actions:

24 January 2017

Thanks for checks received! Address here is 1233 Town Center Drive, Fort Collins CO 80524

Several checks arrived from our veterans over the past couple days and I thank you all very much. If others also care to send anything here is the address:
C-123 Veterans Association
1233 Town Center Drive, Fort Collins CO 80524. Visitors welcome anytime–gets lonely out here on the Front Range!

We now have enough to cover most of the next trip to DC so checks coming from this point on go for the following effort which should be late spring early summer. Because almost all our money goes for travel if you'd rather (or can only) provide frequent flyer miles or something like that it's just as good as cash for what we need.

If you'd rather put a ticket or a hotel on your own credit card for accountability or your own preference, that's perfect as well.

I would very much appreciate the company of one of our other veterans for the next trip to Washington. It's a little more effective with two folks working the Senate and the House offices. I will even treat for lunch at the Senate dining room where you can enjoy their famous bean soup.

C-123 Vets join in ProPublica's Freedom of Information suit against VA

Yesterday, C-123 Vets joined in ProPublica's Freedom of Information suit against VA.

ProPublica, winner of three Pulitzer prizes for its solid public interest investigative journalism, and the Virginian Pilot newspaper have conducted almost two years of an intensive Agent Orange investigation, with several articles focused on C-123 veterans' experiences. They sought information from the government but in response, the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to honor the public's right to access information through our media for nearly two years.

The reporters have already uncovered a great deal of information about veterans' health and our children's health. Their rights under the Freedom of Information Act have been ignored for almost two years. The publisher and ProPublica's reporters have been forced to file suit in the US District Court of Washington for VA's failure to respect the law.

Yesterday, our C-123 Veterans Association joined in this suit. We believe the information sought about Agent Orange, about the VA contractors who opposed our own claims, and about VA personnel who obstructed our claims all needs to be made public. Our contribution to the suit specifically included justification for an immediate temporary injunction ordering the VA to comply or justify their refusal.

It's disappointing to have to waste money and time just to access information that the government stores that is otherwise publicly available and not classified or confidential. Too often, but particularly with the VA, federal agencies simply opt not to cooperate because FOIA requesters have a little recourse other than an initial request and an expensive lawsuit if that request is dishonored.

Two years ago, that was our experience. Paul Bailey and I had waited years for our Freedom of Information Act to be honored. But after some limited release, the VA simply didn't bother with anything else requested. Paul had even passed away while the VA stalled.

We had to go to court. Over $50,000 in legal fees later, the Department of Justice in representing the VA agreed to provide the materials requested. 


22 January 2017

Welcome Aboard, VA Secretary David Shulkin

VHA head Dr. David Shulkin was named by President Trump to move up to Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Welcome aboard Dr. Shuklin! We look forward to learning about your agenda now that the Senate has confirmed your new post.

21 January 2017

Some Checks Just Showed Up! Thanks!

Thank you! We've had support the last several days to help with the expenses of our work in our association. Checks have come in from folks I've never met but who are our comrades in Idaho, Georgia, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere. The widow of one of our maintainers sent in $10: that might not sound much but it is a lot too many of us and it covers a full day using the metro in Washington when I'm working there. Earlier, checks came in from a DAV post and a Vietnam Veterans of America chapter. Altogether that covers my week working in DC earlier this month.

Shoulders at the wheel now include flight nurses, pilots, navs, loads and maintainers... and a couple MSC officers. All of is appreciated! I understand John Harris (aka "Big John") wrote a few emails – many thanks, John.

More checks are welcome..if you care to help. There are at least two trips remaining to DC to work on our retroactivity issue and to help VA address ethical failures that we've pointed out and (amazing!) that they're willing to discuss. If all goes well, we will have even more trips as we pursue issues about our claims up to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Address: 1233 Town Center Drive, Fort Collins CO 80524

I promise I will spend every dime carefully, and I also promise I will spend more than is sent because there is so much we can do!

20 January 2017

ProPublica Seeks Federal Court Order for Release of VA Agent Orange Files

by Robin Fields
ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot filed a lawsuit today in federal court against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing the agency of stonewalling requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit, ProPublica’s second against the VA in two months, seeks a preliminary injunction compelling the government to immediately release correspondence about Agent Orange, an herbicide used to kill vegetation during the Vietnam War, including documents sent to and received by Dr. David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health. Shulkin has been nominated to be VA secretary by President-elect Donald Trump.
ProPublica and the Pilot have been reporting about Agent Orange for 18 months, documenting ongoing effects on veterans and their families. The FOIA requests at issue in today’s lawsuit date back to May and September 2015.
As the news organizations have reported, the VA faces a number of imminent decisions about whether to cover certain groups of veterans who claim they were exposed to Agent Orange, as well as certain diseases that research has shown to be linked to the chemical mixture.
Exhibits attached to the lawsuits show how the FOIA requests submitted by the news organizations were subjected to one delay after another. ProPublica and the Pilot sought help from the VA’s Office of General Counsel, the agency’s chief information officer, as well as the Office of Government Information Services, also known as the FOIA ombudsman. Those efforts were not met with success.
“Repeated pleas to the VA to process two FOIA requests, which now have been pending for 618 days and 506 days, respectively, have been utterly disregarded. Indeed, ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot have done everything short of turning cartwheels in front of VA’s headquarters to draw attention to these requests,” the legal memorandum in support of a preliminary injunction said.

Needed: someone else to lead The C-123 Veterans Association

Friends, at this point I've become a reluctant conscript. It is been six long years at a time in my life when I'd rather have done other things but this work needed to come first. Six years, however, is plenty long enough.

Isn't there someone who could find the time to take on these modest duties? Most of the legwork and the foundation building has been done so we are left with ongoing chores of helping one another and the remaining objective of retroactive compensation. That I will continue working on thru this year if agreeable but I'm glad to pass it to others as they'd like.

Ideally, one of our C-123 veteran brothers or sisters would like to help run things but I'm certainly open to any veteran of any era who would like to serve our folks and others in the veteran community. How about you folks from Pittsburgh or Richenbacher taking a turn at the helm (sorry, stick?) Flight nurses, maintainers, navs, loads, life support??

the last bag drag
You might've noticed that we're very informal, lacking secret handshakes, membership cards, dues or anything else hinting of organization. This is strictly a volunteer opportunity where you pretty much do what you want to be as useful and helpful as possible, but only as your own time, talents and interests (and budget) permit.

I can't begin to describe the immense satisfaction in what we've done together but it is my hope within six months to celebrate by passing along the chairmanship of our association. If you can help us by leading us for however long you feel possible, please step forward!

Finally, I have some medical issues and this is becoming painfully burdensome to carry on much longer.

15 January 2017

To Secretary Bob McDonald: Sir, thank you for your service and Godspeed

From: Wes Carter [mailto:c123kcancer@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2017 3:17 PM
To: McDonald, Bob
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Thank You for your service (personal)

Dear Mr. Secretary,
Please accept the deep thanks of the men and women I represent in the C-123 Veterans Association for your dedicated service leading the Department of Veterans Affairs and serving on President Obama's cabinet.

Yours was such a tremendously important, difficult and thankless job. From the shape the department was in when you took it over, you knew there was no possibility of concluding your service free of intense criticism. You took on the mission anyway to serve veterans like me as best you could... and that was excellent service indeed.

Your mark is firmly on the Department of Veterans Affairs. The staff and the veterans the department serves owe you our thanks for the many accomplishments,  which must also bring you great satisfaction. In particular, Camp Lejeune looks like it's resolved and so are our C-123 vets.

Our only disappointment with Bob McDonald will be next Monday when you're not at your desk where we need you..

Thank you and God bless you and Mrs. McDonald.

Wes and Joan Carter

13 January 2017

Camp Lejeune Marines Get Toxic Exposure Protection At Last! C-123 Veterans Helped!

WE HELPED! The example of the way VA addressed our Agent Orange toxic exposures in 2015 was looked at very carefully by the VA in its approach to the terrible water contamination problem at Camp Lejeune.

Late last year, acting on advice from the Institute of Medicine and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,  Secretary McDonald and the Department of Veterans Affairs proposed a series of protections for Marines and other personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune before 1987. Included are members of the Reserve Components serving there a minimum of 30 days in total. Compensation for their illnesses could reach several billions dollars.

I read the proposed new rules and on behalf of our association commented throughout as you will see in the summary copied from the Federal Register. We especially note the role of the ATSDR in helping Marines just as they helped us, and express our thanks to them for the great job done helping the Corps this day.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amends its adjudication regulations regarding presumptive service connection, adding certain diseases associated with contaminants present in the base water supply at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (Camp Lejeune), North Carolina, from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987. This final rule establishes that veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members, who served at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) during this period, and who have been diagnosed with any of eight associated diseases, are presumed to have incurred or aggravated the disease in service for purposes of entitlement to VA benefits. In addition, this final rule establishes a presumption that these individuals were disabled during the relevant period of service for purposes of establishing active military service for benefits purposes. Under this presumption, affected former reservists and National Guard members have veteran status for purposes of entitlement to some VA benefits. This amendment implements a decision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that service connection on a presumptive basis is warranted for claimants who served at Camp Lejeune during the relevant period and for the requisite amount of time and later develop certain diseases.

11 January 2017

More $$ AMMO $$ Contributed for C-123 Veterans Association Work in Washington DC

A certain Chief Master Sergeant from Westover sent in a check to help toward our expenses in Washington. It is much appreciated ammo toward solving our remaining issue of retroactive disability compensation! Thanks, Chief H.

More such help is welcome.