31 January 2019

Benefits For Navy Sailors Claiming Agent Orange Exposure – but the vets had to wait half a century!

BIGGEST AGENT ORANGE NEWS IN THREE YEARS (Since the C-123 decision. My biggest worry: VA will appeal to the Supreme Court to fight this decision)
January 30, 201912:23 PM ET

by Rick Merron/AP

Navy veterans long denied VA benefits are declaring victory after a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court sided with the plaintiff, a Vietnam vet with cancer who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs, demanding it recognize that his health conditions were caused by Agent Orange.

It took the government decades to acknowledge that the defoliant Agent Orange - widely used during the Vietnam War - was causing cancer and other ailments in veterans.

In 1991 Congress passed a law that vets who had come down with any of a list of cancers could presumptively link their condition to exposure to the chemical while serving in "the Republic of Vietnam." That meant the VA would pay them a disability benefit as they got sicker and dropped out of the workforce.

But the VA later took the position the presumption only applied to vets who had served on land or inland waters. "Blue Water Navy" veterans - so-called because they served at sea - would have to prove that their illness was directly connected to the defoliant.

Alfred Procopio served on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid off the coast of Vietnam, one of about 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans of the war. VA denied his claim that his prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus - both on the law's list of presumptive conditions - were linked to his service, and he sued.

The Court of Appeals ruled in Procopio's favor, deciding that the 1991 law was clearly meant to include vets who served off the coast of Vietnam.

"Mr. Procopio, who served in the territorial sea of the 'Republic of Vietnam,' is entitled to [the law's] presumption. We find no merit in the government's arguments to the contrary," read the court's 9-2 decision.

"The government's foot-on-land requirement, first articulated in 1997, does not provide a basis to find ambiguity in the language Congress chose," wrote Judge Kimberly Moore for the majority.

"VA is reviewing this decision and will determine an appropriate response," the agency said in a statement to NPR.

Lawyer and Navy veteran John Wells had argued the case. The group he directs, Military Veterans Advocacy, had also been lobbying Congress for years to change the law to specifically include Blue Water Navy vets. Wells said he personally knows several Navy vets who have died of conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure, which the VA failed to recognize.

"Delay, deny – until you die," Wells told NPR the day before the decision came down, repeating a bitter joke many Vietnam veterans tell about their treatment by the VA.

Last year the House unanimously passed legislation to address the problem. But a Senate bill was held up by Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, and it died when Congress adjourned.

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin had supported the bill, but President Trump's appointment to replace him, Robert Wilkie, surprised veterans groups by coming out against the measure, citing inconclusive science and a potential cost of billions of dollars.

"While the VA and Senate stalled, innumerable veterans were denied palliative and potentially lifesaving benefits," said John Wells in a statement after the decision.

"We are thrilled by today's ruling from the Court of Appeals," Wells said. "The many people who fought this battle alongside us and the veterans whose lives have been forever changed by the VA's policy are all due thanks and credit."

18 January 2019

Vietnam War Agent Orange Spray Ops Approved 57 Years Ago Today

U.S. launches spraying of Agent Orange, Jan. 18, 1962

After a period of testing, on this day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave final approval to “Operation Ranch Hand” — a massive UC-123K effort to defoliate the forests of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with an herbicide known as Agent Orange.
It involved the spraying of an estimated 20 million gallons of powerful herbicides over rural South Vietnam to deprive Viet Cong insurgents aligned with the communist government in Hanoi of food and vegetation trail cover. To a lesser extent, areas of Cambodia and Laos were also sprayed. The U.S. Air Force flew nearly 20,000 UC-123K sorties from 1961 to 1971.
During the decade of spraying, more than 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of crops were heavily damaged or destroyed. Some one-fifth of South Vietnam’s forests were sprayed at least once — at up to 50 times the concentration that would be deployed for normal agricultural use.
Kennedy insisted on approving individual spray runs until November 1962, when the president authorized Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam to approve them.
Previously, top administration officials had debated whether to allow the destruction of crops, at the risk of violating the Geneva Protocol, which the United States had signed in 1925. However, Dean Rusk, the secretary of State, had told Kennedy on Nov. 24, 1961, that "[t]he use of defoliant does not violate any rule of international law concerning the conduct of chemical warfare and is an accepted tactic of war. Precedent has been established by the British during the emergency in Malaya in their use of aircraft for destroying crops by chemical spraying.”
In early 1964, members of The Federation of American Scientists began to object to the use of defoliants. The American Association for the Advancement of Science passed a resolution in 1966 calling for a field investigation of the Vietnamese herbicide program. In 1967, 17 Nobel laureates and 5,000 other scientists signed a petition asking for the immediate end to the use of herbicides in Vietnam. The administration ignored it.
The spraying program led some 3 million Vietnamese to suffer health problems caused by exposure to Agent Orange, including a million birth defects. Additionally, the toll on members of the U.S. military who handled the chemicals or were deployed in and around the targeted drop zone areas during the war caused another 2.8 million personnel and their offspring to suffer from its long-term affect — chiefly various cancerous conditions. Post-Vietnam C-123 veterans were also affected but granted disability benefits only after June 19, 2015.
While Operation Ranch Hand ended in 1971, its impact is still being felt today. The Veterans Administration recognizes a long list of diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Vietnam War and C-123 veterans who were exposed and suffer from one of these conditions receive automatic presumptions of a service linkage, making them eligible for treatment at government expense, without the need to positively prove that such connections exist.
SOURCE: “This Day in Presidential History,” by Paul Brandus (2018)

16 January 2019

Coast Guard Paychecks Stopped - I’m offering my savings

The Coast Guard has stopped paying their uniformed personal effective today, so I have offered all my savings to the Coast Guard foundation for helping Coasties in Colorado. Not as a gift, but rather direct $3,000 loans until personnel can repay once their paychecks start up again.

You can also help by contacting their organizers:
Rear Admiral Cari Thomas USCG Retired
https://m.facebook.com/CGMutualAssist/.     http://www.cgmahq.org/

o far as I've learned, various drives are underway, such as the $12 million from USAA, but only $1000 per servicemember with dependents, or $750 without. Folks, that's not enough to cover rent! Further, some efforts are focused on $20 gift cards...you can see the mess 40,000 Coasties are in due to the shutdown.

The good news is that the President signed legislation assuring them of their lost wages when the budget turmoil is over. Thus loans can be expected to be repaid promptly, and I'm willing to take any risk otherwise.

Find a way to help out. I don't see how we can sit on our butts (and on our savings accounts) when comrades in arms are on duty worldwide without pay for their families!

What are your thoughts and ideas?

       Wes Carter

05 January 2019

C-123 Agent Orange Veterans: Too Few Know About Our Special VA Benefits

The Buckeye Wing's Tom Scanlon forwarded VBA records on C-123 Agent Orange disability claims. CONCLUSION: The word hasn't gotten out!  Only about 10% of  our vets have had disability claims approved, a much lower percentage of disabilities for our population than others in our age group, plus the overall number of applications is lower than it should be.

Actually much lower, because VA has seen a significant number of claims from obviously ineligible people...passengers, people who might have worked on one at some base, people who were out of the service before Agent Orange was used, or claim exposure long after the C-123s were all retired.

It seems VA might be shutting down its C-123 dedicated claims team in St Paul, believing that most veterans who needed to will have already applied. I don't agree. To me, the low numbers mean that VA and USAF/DFAS simply need to do a better job informing potentially eligible C-123 veterans that anyone with Agent Orange disabilities can apply for disability benefits.

Help get the word out to other C-123 veterans, won't you? Not only are our Agent Orange illnesses going to be cared for, but we get the full range of other VA benefits...compensation, Combat Related Special Compensation (for military retirees,) home loan, medical care, pharmacy, counseling, pretty much everything. You earned it with "boots on the airplane," so get your application in to VA today!

02 January 2019

Major Diane Sampson Passed December 31, 2018

This very sad news was received today. Diane attended my wedding at Hanscom AFB, arriving after a hasty departure and two hour drive from her hospital and still in her scrubs...but she was there. In earlier years I attended her brothers' memorial services and admired Diane's steady support to her parents. God bless and keep our dedicated flight nurse.

Diane R Sampson

AUGUST 16, 1955 ~ DECEMBER 31, 2018 (AGE 63)
Obituary Image

Diane R.(Nosar) Sampson, 63, passed away on December 31, 2018 at Baystate Medical Center. She was born in Holyoke to Walter and Muriel (Giguere) Sampson. Diane served her country in the United States Air Force as an enlisted aeromedical evacuation technician and after receiving her RN, as a Flight Nurse (74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron) for 20 years retiring as a Major. She was a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Following her service she worked as a maternity nurse and a psychiatric nurse for Providence Hospital in Holyoke. Diane was a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 
Diane is survived by her loving daughters, Alyssa Sampson of Hampden and Sabrina Sampson of Holyoke, her parents, Walter and Muriel Sampson of Westfield, her cherished granddaughters, Alivia and Taylor, her brothers, Walter Sampson, Jr of Westfield and Donald Sampson of Texas and her best friend Cathleen Wilson of Chicopee. Sadly Diane was predeceased by two brothers, Thomas and Robert. Diane’s funeral will be held on Friday, January 4, 2019 with a Mass at 10:30AM in St. Mary’s Church, Bartlett St. Westfield followed by burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Southampton Rd. Westfield. Visiting hours will be held prior to the Mass from 8:30-10 AM in the Firtion Adams FS, 76 Broad St. Westfield, MA 01085. www.firtionadams.com

Review: Our two goals for C-123 Veterans' Agent Orange Benefits

Simple. A mostly successful seven-year effort. Many folks chipped in funds to help and I never wrote thank-you cards. That is because all I did was work and the contributors know it and know their help was vital.

GOAL ONE. VA designation of C-123 veterans as "presumptively exposed" to Agent Orange, thus entitling us to VA medical care and other benefits.

GOAL TWO: Get our VA disability claims honored from the earliest date submitted, if earlier than what VA limits for retroactivity (June 19 2015 at the earliest.) This is because many C-123 vets had claims in prior to that date, but were met with the then-automatic VA denial. And VA did deny...100% of all our claims were refused.

At least the VA barrier to our retroactive claims has been broken down a little. A handful of C-123 vets had claims approved via BVA appeals (Paul Bailey, Dick Matte) but VA has been firm in limiting retroactive claims to June 19 2015 and no earlier. It has to do with Reservists not being entitled to disability benefits unless disabled during the Reserve duty.

For some, this has cost tens of thousands in anticipated, but denied, "catch-up" checks. An example: a claim submitted in 2007 but denied at the time, then honored by VA once its C-123 rule was published on June 19 2015. If the vet was due a 100% disability rating, that's eight years of compensation VA won't pay...about $200,000 lost by the vet because of VA's limit of retroactivity set at June 2015.

The good news: at least one claim has been awarded retroactive Agent Orange benefits from the date submitted (in this case, March 2011. On the vet's appeal the BVA determined that C-123 exposure itself was a disabling injury that would date from "back in the day" while flying the Provider. That decision meant the affected Reservist satisfied the law's requirements regarding a disabling injury to trigger statutory veteran status, and the claim was honored back to the date the vet first filed for Agent Orange disabilities. That was a lot of money, with thanks due to the National Veterans Legal Services Project and their cooperating pro bono attorneys!

01 January 2019

C-123 Agent Orange VA Benefits: A January 2019 Resource List

Below you'll find a fairly current list of VA and other significant publications about C-123 veterans and our Agent Orange exposures...just click on what you want to read or download.

Here's a reminder: if you are a post-Vietnam C-123 veteran and have any of the recognized Agent Orange illnesses, you are entitled to the full range of VA health care and other benefits.  Some veterans have succeeded in having claims approved for disabilities not on VA's list of presumptive ailments, getting benefits for avascular necrosis and other problems, but VA is mighty cautious about such coverage...it is a painful uphill battle.

If you are diagnosed with an Agent Orange-related illness, you are entitled to the full range of VA medical care and other benefits...almost. Our benefits vary in that children of C-123 vets aren't eligible for spina bifida benefits, and our claims cannot be honored prior to June 19, 2015 when VA published the C-123 Agent Orange rule. Fortunately, here too, VA has permitted some exceptions.

Agent Orange Newsletter 2018 (VA Public Health) (failed to include C-123 info)

Scientific American: Agent Orange Exposure Endangered Air Force Aircrews (January 2015)

Exposed Veterans Accuse VA of Foot-Dragging on Benefits (Huffpost, 2017)

CDC Report to VA: "C-123s unsafe in American airspace. Crews should have flown in full HAZMAT protection (Dr. C. Portier & Dr. T. Sinks) June 2012) June 2014

Post-Vietnam Military Exposures Aboard Agent Orange Spray Aircraft (Environmental Research, July 2014)