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!