28 December 2018

GAO Criticizes DOD's Agent Orange Site Report

The Government Accountability Office has released its critical report entitled AGENT ORANGE: Actions Needed to Improve Accuracy and Communication of Information on Testing and Storage Locations."

Key point: Both VA and DOD have for decades relied on a fatally-flawed list prepared for DOD by Dr. Al Young, AKA "Dr. Orange." VA has employed his reports principally to deny veterans claiming exposure to Agent Orange. That's right...our famed nemesis has once again been found inadequate in the work he's done, while making millions from VA and DOD writing about this stuff. For years, VA adjudicators, the Board of Veterans Appeals and the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims have wrongly denied claims from veterans who claim exposure in locations or situations not listed in Young's report. C-123 vets were also denied for years, but won our presumptive exposure ruling in June 2015...despite Young's ceaseless efforts against us.

The GAO reported it plainly: VA seized on Young's incomplete report to refuse medical care and other benefits to veterans claiming Agent Orange cancers, ALS, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments. And Young's report, along with lots of other material gathered by VA, was fatally flawed.

At the Veterans Benefits Administration "Agent Orange Desk" run by Mr. James Sampsel, (who himself officially stated that veterans' Agent Orange disabilities is only "hype and hysteria.") VA had its boiler-plate denial ready to shoot down each and every claim of Agent Orange exposure outside Vietnam, It is important to grasp the great reliance placed by VA on Young's work, and the equal fact that Young has consistently argued against the various foundations for veterans' Agent Orange claims. His 2006 report on Agent Orange sites is but one example of VA's obstruction that led to the GAO report.

Even if discouraged vets opted to appeal Sampsel's use of the Young report to oppose claims, the Board of Appeals for Veterans Claims (BVA) also relied on Young to prevent exposure claims. For example, read this November 2014 BVA denial:
"In fact, Dr. Young's report, which provides the most complete data available on this subject, expressly found that there was there were no documents or records to validate the use of Agent Orange in Okinawa. In this case, the Board finds the exhaustive searches and related findings conducted by the various agencies/entities outlined above, to be far more probative than the Veteran's baseless assertions that he was exposed to Agent Orange/herbicides in Okinawa. Notably, the Veteran has not submitted any medical reports/literature or other evidence to support his claim of exposure, or that otherwise contradict the above findings."
And this:
"Upon review of the Alvin L. Young Collection on Agent Orange, which is part of the National Agricultural Library, the Department of Agriculture was unable to find any reference to the military use of any herbicidal agents, including Agents Orange and Blue, at Fort Jackson during the moving party's period of service. The motion for reversal or revision of the May 3, 2011 Board decision finding that the moving party was not entitled to service connection for diabetes mellitus, type 2, claimed as due to exposure to herbicides, is denied." 
Young's "expertise" on the Agent Orange topic was frequently cited in BVA denials:
"The RO associated with the record a February 2014 report entitled "Investigation into the Environmental Fate of TCDD/Dioxin" that listed Dr. Alvin L. Young as the primary author (the "February 2014 Report"). According to the attached biography, Dr. Young completed his PhD in herbicide physiology and environmental toxicology in 1968, and since then, has amassed more than 300 publications in the scientific literature, including five books on issues related to Agent Orange and/or dioxin. "
But neither the regional office claims adjudicators, nor the BVA, or even the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims bother to report the full story about Young, his 2006 report, or relationship to Sampsel. The Young-VA-Agent Orange story includes many revealing points:
1. Young's work supports VA positions disputing Agent Orange exposure and harmful effects
2. Young famously wrote that Agent-Orange-exposed vets were"trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect."
3. Even Young agrees his 2006 report was inadequate, however he didn't do this until he sought yet another VA contract to update it. In other words, his report was okay unless he could make more money
4. As for money, Young agreed he's made "millions" writing reports for the VA and DOD. He also got a $600,000 no-bid-sole source contract mostly directed against C-123 veterans' claims
5. Even while under VA contract at $26,000/month, Young wrongly insisted he wasn't representing VA when he appeared before the National Academy of Medicine to oppose C-123 claims while also failing to reveal his contract and close coordination with VA for input to the Academy. Fortunately, the Academy found that his work, and other from VA and DOD, has been found to be incomplete and also it wrongly minimized veterans' harmful AO exposure risks
My advice to every vet whose claim was denied citing Young's report: appeal based on the now-established fact that the 2006 Young report has been found flawed.

official photo from AFPMB newsletter
Back to the GAO report itself. One key finding was that DOD, sponsor of Young's 2006 report, agreed that the report was flawed but couldn't identify any process to improve it. I'm reminded of my frequent requests to both DOD and VA to help add C-123 spray aircraft to the list, but each agency refused. DOD said it was VA's duty, VA said they simply used what DOD provided and couldn't change anything. My letters to the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, where Young has lectured, were met with refusals to get involved. Interestingly, even though Young has (or had) contracts with the AFPMB as recently as 2017, nothing about him is found in AFPMB files. Guess they don't read their own official newsletter–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––>

My 2013 letters to LtGen Judith Fedder, DCS/Logistics, Installations & Mission Support, were similarly rebuffed. She answered,

Very disappointing. Especially so, reading in the November 2018 GAO report that DOD finally has agreed.

Below: The GAO report's six key conclusions:
The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of 
Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment assigns responsibility for 
ensuring that DOD’s list of locations where Agent Orange or its 
components were tested and stored is as complete and accurate as 
available records allow. (Recommendation 1) 
The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of
Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment develops a process for
the revised list as new information becomes available.
The Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs, should develop clear and transparent criteria for what constitutes 
a location that should be included on the list of testing and storage 
locations. (Recommendation 3) 
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the Secretary of 
Defense, should develop clear and transparent criteria for what 
constitutes a location that should be included on the list of testing and 
storage locations. (Recommendation 4)

The Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Secretary of Veterans
Affairs, should develop a formal process for coordinating on how best to 
communicate information to veterans and the public regarding where 
Agent Orange was known to have been present outside of Vietnam. 
(Recommendation 5)

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the Secretary of
Defense, should develop a formal process for coordinating on how best to 
communicate information to veterans and the public regarding where 
Agent Orange was known to have been present outside of Vietnam. 
(Recommendation 6)

21 November 2018


THAT'S RIGHT. According to the VA's own Inspector General Report released yesterday, VA claims adjudicators don't bother telling seriously ill...sometimes terminally ill...veterans of entitlement to the extremely valuable benefit called "special monthly compensation," or SMC When the IG asked why, they were told "Because we don't have to." Isn't that clever? Imagine the money VA saves by establishing a program with help from Congress, and then doesn't bother with delivery to qualified vets. Perhaps VA feels if vets didn't ask about SMC, they don't deserve it, even in cases with terminal illnesses like ALS.

SMC is an extremely complicated program poorly understood even by VA's own claims staff. They have to use a "SMC Calculator" to figure it out. SMC is meant for the more seriously disabled veterans whose illnesses or injuries go beyond the 100% total disability rate, and SMC is paid rather than the regular monthly stipend. This is vital assistance, and SMC addresses challenging situations where vets are homebound, blind, lost use of extremities, confined to bed, severe TBI, require home medical care and similar cases. You don't want to be so disabled as to qualify, but if you do, SMC helps deal with such staggering problems.

SMC-S is for homebound totally disabled veterans, and currently pays $3228, or $255 more than the base 100% compensation. The program can compensate the most seriously disabled veterans as much as $8510 per month, with a couple thousand eligible.

You can easily imagine the importance of SMC to those so disabled as to qualify. That leads to the question the IG raised when checking into how victims of ALS are treated. The answer was a horrid one...VA claims folks don't bother telling vets with this terminal illness. Citing a narrow interpretation of a case that reached the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, VA says they just don't have to, and it is on the veteran, not VA, to find out about SMC.

Lesson learned? If you have a serious disability, very carefully read up on special monthly compensation, and get help from a veterans service organization like the DAV or VFW to get your paperwork done right.

I still wonder how VA's VA M21-1MR rulebook can state that SMC is an implied claim in every disability claim, and yet not review SMC approval or denial in so many decisions.

11 November 2018

Colonel Fred Lindahl has passed

Colonel Frederick W. Lindahl USAF Retired, age 76, died on October 27, 2018, after a long illness. Col. Lindahl was born in West Springfield, MA, graduating from West Springfield High School and the United States Air Force Academy, Class of 1963. Col. Lindahl flew combat missions in Vietnam from 1968–1969, leaving active duty in 1969. He continued as a C-5 command pilot in the Air Force Reserves until his retirement in 1995, serving in Operations Just Cause and Desert Storm and flying in joint service exercises in the US and Europe, including three REFORGER exercises. 

His many decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and numerous Air Medals.

After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1971 and a PhD from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 1985, Col. Lindahl joined the faculty of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. He moved to the George Washington University School of Business in 1993, where he was a tenured professor at the time of his death. His service was recognized in May 2018 with the Outstanding Master of Accountancy Faculty Award. 

Col. Lindahl was a devoted husband, father, brother, grandfather, and teacher. He was happiest reading, mentoring students, walking with his wife on Cape Cod, telling his daughters about their family history, visiting his sisters, and playing baseball with his grandsons. He cherished visits to Shenandoah National Park and to Finland, his ancestral home. Col. Lindahl is survived by his wife, Anna Lindahl; two daughters, Virginia Lindahl, of Alexandria, VA, and Kristine Lindahl Currie, of Chapel Hill, NC; and two sisters, Susan Costa and Dorothy Guenther, both of South Yarmouth, MA. He is pre-deceased by his sister Margaret Servidio. Col. Lindahl leaves three grandsons, Benjamin Lecker, Nathaniel Currie, and Noah Currie, who knew him affectionately as "Popsy."

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation to aid veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure, to the Daedalians Foundation, or to the Shenandoah National Trust Fund. 

A memorial viewing was held on November 10, 2018 in Alexandria Virginia, with final military honors to be rendered at Arlington National Cemetery.

In this blog, his fellow Air Force veterans want it known by all that our friend Fred was held in the very highest esteem as a man and scholar-warrior.

“The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.”  Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War


Multiple Federal Register comments about our C-123 Agent Orange regulation referenced a March 2013 correspondence from the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) to VA. JSRRC had cited the findings of a study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) as relevant documentation establishing exposure to residual dioxin. The commenters requested that this memorandum be utilized as a basis for a retroactive effective date. Similarly, multiple comments referenced the 2015 findings of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and requested that the date of these findings be utilized as a basis for the effective date of this regulation.
"VA finds no basis to utilize the JSRRC correspondence or the IOM findings to establish an earlier effective date for the regulation. For all regulations in which VA has established a presumption of exposure, there is a body of scientific evidence that must be considered and ultimately informs the decision to establish the presumption of exposure. This body of scientific evidence, by logical necessity, predates the effective date of the regulation. Exposure aboard contaminated C-123 aircraft is no different. As discussed above, to the extent VA has legal authority to establish a retroactive effective date, it is unquestionably the well-established practice of VA and Congress to establish liberalizing regulations and statutes benefitting other groups of veterans with prospective effective dates. Therefore, no change is warranted based on any of these multiple theories asserted in support of assigning a retroactive effective date for this regulation."

The ignored rules about the JSRRC VA's own regulation VA M21-1MR. VA's rule is tat claims adjudicators must inquire about non-presumptive disabilities and questionable presumptive claims. Yet in the paragraph above VA insists it was correct in ignoring the numerous JSRRC affirmations of C-123 post-Vietnam exposures.

Rules? For vets, not for VA!

20 October 2018

C-123 Regulation becomes FINAL on 22 October 2018

Three years on, VA on Monday October 22 2018 will make the C-123 regulations final.

This makes permanent and unchanged the C-123 interim final rule signed by Secretary Bob McDonald on June 19, 2015 following release of the pivotal Institute of Medicine C-123 Agent Orange report. In the interim rule, VA conceded that post-Vietnam C-123 veterans had been exposed and harmed by residual Agent Orange contamination in the aircraft.

The key point in this final adoption of the C-123 regulation is that there've been no changes whatever. VA received a great number of comments addressing retroactive exposure benefits, and shot them all down. Basically, VA held that exposure did not itself constitute an injury of the type that would make Reservists eligible for veteran status, much like a heart attack or broken bone on a UTA or Annual Tour would do. That destroyed any hope of our folks getting their claims back-dated, and only claims from June 19, 2015 forward are going to be compensated.

Below is the text of this important document:

Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 204 / Monday, October 22, 2018 / Rules and Regulations 53179

38 CFR Part 3
RIN 2900–AP43
Presumption of Herbicide Exposure and Presumption of Disability During Service for Reservists Presumed Exposed to Herbicides
AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs. ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is adopting as final an interim final rule published on June 19, 2015, to amend its adjudication regulation governing individuals presumed to have been exposed to certain herbicides. Specifically, VA expanded the regulation to include an additional group consisting of individuals who performed service in the Air Force or Air Force Reserve under circumstances in which they had regular and repeated contact with C–123 aircraft known to have been used to spray an herbicide agent (“Agent Orange”) during the Vietnam era. In addition, the regulation established a presumption that members of this group who later develop an Agent Orange presumptive condition were disabled during the relevant period of service, thus establishing that service as “active military, naval, or air service.” The effect of this action is to presume herbicide exposure for these individuals and to create a presumption that the individuals who are presumed exposed to herbicides during reserve service also meet the statutory definition of “veteran” (hereinafter, “veteran status”) for VA purposes and eligibility for some VA benefits.
DATES: Effective Date: This rule is effective October 22, 2018.
Applicability Date: This final rule is applicable to any claim for service connection for an Agent Orange presumptive condition filed by a covered individual that was pending on or after June 19, 2015.

10 September 2018


If you were a Life Support tech at a base with C-123 aircraft after Vietnam, you are probably entitled to Agent Orange benefits if you have one of the recognized illnesses.

Too many never got the word, and we worked hard back when VA was asking for our input and made sure Life Support AFSCs were included!

Spread the word. Questions?

 Call VA at St. Paul,1-800-749-8387.

06 September 2018

White House Officials "tricking" an Elected President Are Wrong-Headed! Obey, Argue, or Resign are the only honorable and Constiutional choices

Anonymous White House Writer Isn’t A Patriot. They Betray The Constitution.

I encountered many approaches to faithfully executing the law during my more than two decades in government. I saw officials seek to bend the rules to achieve their desired outcomes, and I saw officials demonstrate reverent respect for the law as they performed their elected and appointed functions. Never in my career have I witnessed anything on the magnitude of the tale told Wednesday by an anonymous senior administration official in a New York Times op-ed. I imagine I am far from alone.
The nearest historical analogy I can name ― and it is a poor one ― for the efforts of the author and others to “thwart” President Donald Trump’s “agenda and worst inclinations” is Edith Wilson’s assumption of power following President Woodrow Wilson’s stroke in 1919. Her abrogation of political power was, in fact, one of the historical events that drove passage of the 25th Amendment to regularize and codify how the republic deals with an incapacitated president.

President Trump is correct about one thing: The senior administration official who wrote that op-ed is gutless.

I have many differences of substance and opinion with the current administration. Its divisive social policies render offense to Americans of every race, creed, color, gender, orientation and group. To call its management of foreign policy, my particular area of expertise, appalling is a vast understatement. President Trump has gone out of his way to coddle and consort with our adversaries, offend our oldest and staunchest friends and allies, undermine American credibility and global leadership, and demean our fundamental values of democracy, freedom of expression, dignity of the person, and respect for individual and political rights.
That said, President Trump is correct about one thing: The senior administration official who wrote that op-ed is gutless. Worse, he or she is violating his or her own oath to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The writer avers that Cabinet officials did not want to invoke the 25th Amendment in order not to precipitate a constitutional crisis. Unfortunately and perilously, when unelected staff appropriate the mechanisms of national policy and fail to use proper constitutional procedures, they per se create a constitutional crisis.
I can appreciate the official’s stated patriotic intentions, and his or her call for Americans to reach out to each other and repair our national divisions. That does not alter the fact that his or her actions are wrong. They are undemocratic and unconstitutional. The Constitution does not empower unelected staff — no matter how much they are “adults” and no matter how well-meaning — to decide that they will govern in this manner.
If the president is not competent to do his job, do not improvise. Follow the Constitution and remove him from office.

Steven Pike is assistant professor of public relations at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2016 after a 23-year career as a diplomat and public affairs practitioner.

29 May 2018

FORBES MAGAZINE: The Shocking Health Effects Of Agent Orange Now A Legacy Of Military Death"

Memorial Day, 2018
Nicole Fisher , CONTRIBUTOR, FORBES Magazine

Sadly though, as time goes by we are finding that those who made it home oftentimes brought the deadly echoes of war home with them.

Despite little coverage of the herbicide for decades, its deadly effects have impacted the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who interacted with the chemical.'

While honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice during war, Memorial Day also presents an opportunity for Americans to reflect upon the loss of life because of war. Memorial Day (unlike Veteran’s Day which honors those who served) pays tribute to those who died on the battlefield for our country. Sadly though, as time goes by we are finding that those who made it home oftentimes brought the deadly echoes of war home with them. This is particularly true for soldiers of the Vietnam War. And, the repercussions of war-time actions in Vietnam are still being felt, more than four decades later, as the decedents of those brave men and women battle health issues related to a frightening ghost of their ancestor’s past: Agent Orange.

The Vietnam Memorial lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died overseas. However, the wall does not document any names of the estimated 2.8 million U.S. vets who were exposed to the poisonous chemical while serving and later died.

The Gruesome Legacy

In total, the U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of various herbicides over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971. However, according to the EPA, Agent Orange, which contains the poisonous chemical dioxin, was the most commonly used. And among those who were lucky enough to survive the trenches of Vietnam, the health issues – now generations later – have been a living nightmare. Agent Orange is linked to serious health issues including cancers, severe psychological and neurological problems, and birth defects, both among the Vietnamese people and the men and women of the U.S. military.

Despite little coverage of the herbicide for decades, its deadly effects have impacted the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who interacted with the chemical. And that’s just in the U.S. military. Those who lost their lives or faced grave physical and mental repercussions of Agent Orange include State Department officials, soldiers from countries like Australia and visitors who spent stints in the region due to war-time obligations. Additionally, more than 4 million Vietnamese citizens were subjected to Agent Orange exposure.

Charles Bailey, PhD– co-author of a new book From Enemies to Partners: Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange– explained to me that, “When it comes to Agent Orange, the fog of war continued on long after the guns fell silent  in Vietnam.”

He and his co-author Le Ke Son, PhD, of Vietnam have been working to bring the U.S. and Vietnam together to resolve, to the fullest extent possible, the continuing health impact of Agent Orange. The issue had long been deadlocked, with one group looking at it exclusively as an issue of science and the other exclusively as an issue of justice. Bailey and Son helped fill in the “missing middle” between these two groups with new voices and constructive action which broke the logjam.

What they mean by that, is not only cleaning up the mess that has persisted for individuals and communities, but to begin the bilateral healing process by having the uncomfortable conversations that the American military refused to have. Lucky for them, the State Department, USAID, and Congress – specifically Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) agree. He stated on record that his goal is to, “Turn Agent Orange from being a symbol of antagonism and resentment into another example of the U.S. and Vietnamese governments working together to address one of the most difficult and emotional legacies of war.”

Emotion Meets Action

Dioxin is highly toxic (even in minute doses) and accumulates in fatty tissue. Thus, fish, birds and other animals have kept Agent Orange chemical compounds in their bodies for years - as well as continue to eat from the lands and waterways that were directly doused in Agent Orange. Because of this, most human exposure to these lethal carcinogens is now via foods. Which has caused significant diplomatic and global health troubles between our countries.

While the U.S. has aimed for decades to mend relations with the Vietnamese, our refusal to talk about the repercussions of our earlier military actions has been a huge hinderance. That is, until the last few years. Thanks to former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) who sponsored the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2015 had paid $24 billion in disability compensation to 1.3 million veterans who served in our armed forces sometime during the Vietnam era. Both the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration have supported Congress in its efforts to address the genetic consequences that Agent Orange has caused our two countries.

By recognizing that thosewho have died of dioxin-relatedhealth issues are casualties of war, and the cultural, economic and diplomatic consequences of wartime actions, the U.S. has also taken major steps to help clean up the three confirmed residual hot stops in Vietnam. Former American military bases and the Da Nang Airport have been the primary targets. And, thankfully by the middle of 2017, in line with Senator Leahy’s united vision, Da Nang Airport was dioxin free.

These actions have gone a long way in building both confidence and collaboration between our countries. And finally, the legacy of Agent Orange is beginning to cast less of a shadow. But after losing more than 58,000 American comrades on the battlefield in Vietnam, the lives of those who returned home were never the same. Half a century later many lives are still being lost due to horrific health issues and chemically-induced genetic mutations.

While they did not die on the battlefield in Vietnam, the deadly repercussions of Agent Orange have known no boundaries. So this Memorial Day, as we observe our fallen men and women through public ceremony or private prayer, let’s be sure to think about all  of the military lives lost because of war.

05 March 2018

Col. Archer Battista Scholarship for veterans attend law school available

The Hampden County Bar Association is once again offering the Col. Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship to any veteran who is attending law school.
The scholarship, which will be granted for at least $1,000, was named for Battista, who served in the Air Force for 33 years in active duty and as an Air Force Reservist. He was a pilot and participated in over two hundred missions in the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and twenty Air Medals, and served in multiple missions to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Battista graduated from Western New England University School of Law and practiced law from 1977 until 2013. He also served as president of the Hampden County Bar Association, a member of its board of directors and an ex officio director.
Battista, who died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 70, was an active part of a team of former Westover Air Force Reserve members who successfully spent four years fighting for benefits for military crews who fall ill after being exposed to Agent Orange while flying C-123 Provider planes that had been previously used to spray the chemical in Vietnam.
4-year fight over: Vets win Agent Orange benefits

After retiring, Battista was instrumental in establishing a Veterans Treatment Court in Western Massachusetts. The court addresses the unique situation of military veterans facing criminal charges, offering specialized supervision and care. Battista also served as a mentor to veterans going through the court process and received the Adams Pro Bono Publico from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for his work.

24 February 2018


That's how I read it. 

And if I'm right, it means retroactive disability for some Reservists who happen to satisfy requirements for statutory veteran status. Translation: If a Reservist has some other service-connected disability dating from before the June 2015 liberalizing rule, such as tinnitus, the law's requirement for being a proper "veteran" for benefits is met. VA "will presume that the individual concerned became disabled during that service for purposes of establishing that the individual has active military, naval, or air service.” VA will make the factual presumption that the individual concerned was disabled during the qualifying service so that such individual's service will constitute “active, military, naval, or air service."

The earlier injury for tinnitus or whatever satisfies requirements for veteran status without having to rely on the liberalizing rule's effective date of June 19, 2015. Ideas?

Here's the Federal Register C-123 posting:

Further, in consideration of the reserve component members with such service, VA will consider this presumed herbicide exposure to be an “injury” under section 101(24)(B) and (C). In turn, if such individual develops a presumptive disease listed in 38 CFR 3.309(e), as specified in 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(ii), “it will be presumed that the individual concerned became disabled during that service for purposes of establishing that the individual has active military, naval, or air service.” VA will make the factual presumption that the individual concerned was disabled during the qualifying service so that such individual's service will constitute “active, military, naval, or air service.” 

23 February 2018


WHAT THE HECK? As a lifetime DAV member, I'm outraged! DAV has just debased itself and honored the administrator who bottled up our C-123 claims for four years, Mr. Thomas Murphy of the Veterans Benefit Administration. DAV forgets it was Mr. Murphy who approved the infamous no-bid sole-source $600,000 contract to Al Young to oppose Agent Orange claims. DAV forgets its own powerful denunciation of VA and that contract. Only with a blank memory could DAV or any other veterans organization lower itself to "honor" Mr. Murphy. Background: Along with Major Marlene Wentworth, I sat in front of Mr. Murphy in his office the afternoon of February 28, 2013 and read back to him his toxic September 25, 2012 advisory opinion in which he personally denied a C-123 veteran’s disability claim that the regional office had wanted to approve.Each of the four pages of Murphy’s opinion reeked of mistakes and revealed his passion in preventing C-123 claims. He excelled in that passion by denying 100% of our claims for over four years. For this disservice to thousands of C-123 veterans DAV now chooses to honor him? Outrageous! The thrust of that advisory opinion back in 2012 was his dismissal of all expert input establishing a veteran’s exposure from our Agent Orange-contaminated C-123 aircraft. Supporting the claim were reports from federal agencies, including the CDC/ATSDR, NIH, US Public Health Service, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dozens of experts of the Committee of Concerned Scientists and Physicians also confirmed C-123 veterans’ exposure injuries. 
It is my understanding this particular application had more supporting evidence than any other VA disability claim ever submitted. Where typically a doctor’s note, some proof of service and perhaps an outside expert opinion would accompany a disability claim, this C-123 claim had a full-court press of government and independent experts, all making clear the fact of C-123 Agent Orange exposure. It was, in VA terms, “an overwhelming preponderance of evidence.”
None of which sufficed for Mr. Murphy. Determined to maintain the zero-approval stone wall he and others built against C-123 claims, he simply dismissed everything. He said these scientists and physicians, many of whom previously were VA and IOM experts, weren’t even qualified to comment.
Most outrageous was his dismissal of the report by Dr. Thomas Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC/ATSDR. Dr. Sinks’ opinion on C-123 Agent Orange was dramatic: C-123 vets had exposure 182-times military safety limits and face a 200-fold greater risk of cancers. Later, Sinks' report would prove pivotal in the final IOM report confirming C-123 exposure injuries.
The Sinks report was also affirmed by the CDC/ATSDR director Dr. Christopher Portier and other NIH executives, including Rear Admiral R.Ikeda MD, US Public Health Service.
Not nearly enough for Mr. Murphy, who trashed the CDC/ATSDR report:

Read carefully Mr. Murphy’s last sentence: "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects."  Read that he did not repeat the frightening CDC/ATSDR details about exposures 182-times safety limits, or increased cancer risks.
Agent Orange is harmless? No health effects? Mr. Murphy summarized the CDC/ATSDR report about our 200-fold greater risk of cancers as “no adverse health effects?”
Later, a VA spokesperson called that “an unfortunate choice of words,” but it sufficed for Mr. Murphy’s purpose of ensuring that no C-123 claims would get past his desk. Years would pass before the first claim did succeed in 2015.
With his staff also present, I read his statement to him during our meeting on February 28, 2013 and Mr. Murphy said it would stand. He also said no evidence from whatever expert would permit C-123 claim approval because VHA had already decided we were never exposed. Meanwhile. on the other side of its official mouth, VA was falsely insisting that all our claims were evaluated on a case-by-case facts-proven basis. 
For Mr. Murphy’s mistreatment of thousands of C-123 veterans and his failure to follow his own VAM21-1MR regulation, DAV now stoops to “honor” this Agent Orange claim opponent. Totally disgraceful!