19 March 2023

Colorado LSC initial cost estimate of $4.5 million for HCR 23-1002 (TDIU) was inaccurate

The Colorado LSC initial cost estimate of $4.5 million for TDIU was inaccurate
(see revised budget impact from LSC correction below, based on this analysis)

The Cost for Total Disability for Individual Unemployability (TDIU) Property Tax Exemption

1. TDIU is regulatory, not statutory. The key section of the regulation reads:
“Total disability ratings for compensation may be assigned, where the schedular rating is less than total, when the disabled person is, in the judgment of the rating agency, unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities. Provided that, if there is only one such disability, this disability shall be ratable at 60% or more, and that, if there are two or more disabilities, there shall be at least one disability ratable at 40% or more, and sufficient additional disability to bring the combined rating to 70% or more.” (38 CFR § 4.16a.)
2. TDIU benefits granted under the VA Rating Schedule are intended to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity that results from service-connected disease or injury. TDIU is a special additional benefit to address the truly unique disability picture of a veteran who is unemployable solely from service-connected disability, but for whom the application of the Rating Schedule does not fully reflect the veteran’s level of impairment. TDIU allows the veteran to receive compensation at a rate equivalent to that of a 100% schedular award.
3. VA pays basic compensation benefits to veterans incurring disabilities from injuries or diseases that were incurred or aggravated while on active military duty. VA rates the severity of all service-connected disabilities by using its Schedule for Rating Disabilities. The schedule lists a multitude of disabilities and assigns each disability a percentage rating, which is intended to represent an average earning impairment the veteran would experience in civilian occupations because of the disability. Veterans awarded service-connected disabilities are assigned single or combined (in case of multiple disabilities) ratings ranging from 0 to 100%, in increments of 10%, based on the rating schedule; this is known as a schedular rating. Diseases and injuries incurred or aggravated while on active duty are called service-connected disabilities. To avoid an unfair “one size fits all” disability evaluation, disability compensation can be increased to the full 100% level if VA determines that the veteran is factually unemployable (not able to engage in substantially gainful employment) based only on the service-connected disability exceeding in severity anticipated in the rating schedules. VA can assign a total disability rating of 100% to veterans who cannot perform substantial gainful employment because of service-connected disabilities, even though their schedular rating is significant but less than 100%...but is in fact totally disabling.
The cost estimate of $4.5 million if approved by the public is inaccurate. Several facts need to be considered that should reduce this significantly:
1. Most importantly, the GAO reports that 54% of TDIU veterans are age 65 or older, and thus already eligible for the senior property tax exemption if in their home ten years or more. Those TDIU veterans present no additional burden for the property tax exemption program. An unknown number of TDIU veterans under age 65 have partners over age 65 and thus otherwise eligible for the exemption.
2. 2847 Colorado TDIU veterans who are permanently and totally disabled from line-of-duty injuries are barred from the exemption. Colorado has 13589 VA 100% permanently and totally disabled veterans, 76% of whom are homeowners No VA data seems available to determine how many of these are “P&T (permanent and total)” to qualify for the current property tax exemption. VA reports the ratio of TDIU/100% veterans is about 45/100, and 46% of TDIU veterans are age 65 or younger. Thus, Colorado is ignoring the needs of 20% of our totally disabled homeowning vets under age 65. The exemption for TDIU veterans would be under $2 million annually.
3. Colorado seems unique among the states in distinguishing between VA 100% schedular and TDIU. Military.com rates Colorado, prizing ourself as “Veteran Friendly,” only as a mediocre 27th among the states offering veterans’ benefits.
4. 60%+ of TDIU veterans are in the World War II-Vietnam era. The age group 50-65 represents 28% of all TDIU recipients. Their participation in a property tax exemption program is just for a few years before aging into the senior exemption...they “age out” of any potential TDIU burden on the state.
According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the total veteran
population is set to decline from 20.8 million in 2015 to 12.0 million by 2045; total annual change is -1.8
5. 27.2% of Colorado’s veteran households have an “extraordinarily high” burden of total income for housing. 6.9% of veterans live below the poverty line, although totally disabled veterans’ disability benefits are above that level unless family size is considered.
6. 35% of TDIU beneficiaries have mental health conditions as their major diagnosis (of which more than two-thirds are posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] diagnoses), followed by musculoskeletal conditions (29%), and cardiovascular conditions (13%.)
7. Of all Colorado veterans receiving disability compensation, 6% are rated as 100% permanently and totally disabled. 4.5% of Colorado’s total veteran population have a disability rating of TDIU.
8. It is absolutely incorrect to refer to this category of veterans as “individually
unemployed.” Rather, they are totally disabled veterans who, solely because of their military injuries or illnesses, have been carefully assessed by VA physicians, claims officials and vocational specialists as being totally and permanently disabled, unable to work above any marginal employment. The term “total disability for individual unemployability” should be used throughout, rather than “unemployed!” TDIU veterans aren’t unemployed; they have left active duty service physically unable to work, whereas VA-rated 100% disabled veterans are often able to continue useful employment, trained for other opportunities, other careers, and are encouraged to find work for obvious financial and mental health reasons. “Extraneous” factors, such as nonservice-connected disabilities, injuries occurring after military service, availability of work, or voluntary withdrawal from the market are not considered as factors for TDIU ratings.
Where the rating schedule is found to be inadequate to fairly compensate a veteran for the inability to be gainfully employed, Veteran Benefit Administration (the administrative portion of VA) may refer cases consideration of a TDIU rating on an “extrascheduler” basis
9. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has two categories of veterans assessed to be totally and permanently disabled due to their injuries or illnesses. There are no differences in their federal benefits or compensation.
a. VA “100% permanent and total schedular.” is a rating schedule which assigns a degree of total disability using a formula set by law ( 38 CFR 3.340, 38 CFR 3.341(a), and 38 CFR 4.16) for a full range of illnesses and/or injuries suffered by veterans while on active duty (or, for Reserve Components, while on active training status for when called to federal service.)
b. The second is TDIU, a unique program created in 1933 to “fill the gap” in situations where a veteran’s line-of-duty illnesses or injuries are far more serious and exceed the schedular provisions, or when the combination of the veteran’s active duty illness or injuries are at least 70% but when considered with with other, lesser military injuries or illness have made the veteran totally disabled. This involves separate medical and administrative assessments: one evaluating military-related disabilities and a second to consider whether those military disabilities alone make employment impossible. This leaves the TDIU veteran at a fixed disability compensation at the 100% level, never able to continue productive employment.
TDIU criteria for unemployability are quite similar to those used by the Social Security Administration to determine total disability, except TDIU is far more restrictive, being based solely on military line-of-duty injuries or illnesses. SSDI considers the broader picture, including all military and civilian issues to determine total disability. A veteran can be SSDI-eligible for overall disability yet unqualified for TDIU unless military disabilities make anything above-marginal employment impossible. Note that many veterans having between 10%-90% VA disability (neither 100% nor TDIU) but are qualified to receive SSDI. Between SSDI, VA 100% disability and TDIU, TDIU is the most serious and restrictive disability scheme.
Like SSDI, a TDIU veteran is monitored for their continuing total disability. Earned income, whether employed or self-employed, other than sheltered workshop or below-poverty level income is disqualifying. Such a situation would result in termination of federal TDIU and any related state benefits. This limit applies only to the veteran's earnings, and not to the veteran's unearned income or household income. Managing TDIU benefits involves not only assessing initial eligibility for benefits, but also ensuring beneficiaries’ ongoing eligibility by identifying those who are not in compliance with the earnings limit.
VA rating specialists initiate TDIU evaluations when a veteran or their VA physician submits an application for TDIU benefits or his or her application for compensation benefits contains clear evidence of unemployability. In all cases, before granting benefits, rating specialists must evaluate the impact that the veteran’s service-connected disability(ies) have on his or her ability to perform gainful employment, which for decision-making purposes is generally interpreted as employment that is more than “marginal employment.”
Marginal employment for a TDIU veteran may also be held to exist, on a case-by-case basis, for a veteran maintaining employment at a sheltered workshop or family business with annual earnings at or below the poverty threshold.
VA rating specialists are to rely on various sources of information for the evidence needed to support such a determination, including an employment and earnings history furnished by the claimant, basic employment information from the claimant’s employers (if any), and a medical exam report from Veterans Health Administration (the medical side of VA.) If the claimant had received vocational rehabilitation assistance from VA or disability benefits from SSA, the rating specialist might also seek information on these services or benefit decisions. Many veterans seeking TDIU benefits seek a vocational evaluation, offered by many states’ employment agencies to assess any remaining employability.
Quality of life reduction, a serious issue and often a factor in other disability compensation programs, is not assessed in VA issues. About 30% of totally disabled veterans receive assistance from family members with activities of daily life impairments, thus greatly reducing household income.
Wes Carter, Chair
The C-123 Veterans Association

23 February 2023

Interesting Article for Agent Orange Veterans: Agent Orange Reviewed: Potential Role in Peripheral Neuropathy

Suzanne M de la Monte
PMID: 36785586 PMCID: PMC9920643 (available on 2023-04-01)


Agent Orange, a dioxin-containing toxin, was used as an herbicide during the Vietnam War. Exposures to Agent Orange were initially linked to birth defects among Vietnamese civilians residing near aerially sprayed regions. Years later, returning South Korean and U.S. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange exhibited increased rates of malignancy, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and birth defects in their offspring. 

Growing evidence that herbicides and pesticides contribute to chronic diseases including neurodegeneration raises concern that Agent Orange exposures may have increased the risk for later development of peripheral or central nervous system (CNS) degeneration. This article reviews published data on the main systemic effects and the prevalence rates, relative risks, characteristics and correlates of Agent Orange-associated peripheral neuropathy and CNS dementia-associated diseases. 

The critical findings were that relatively high levels of Agent Orange exposure increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy either alone or as a co-factor complication of diabetes mellitus and likely contributed to the pathogenesis of CNS degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and vascular dementias. Given the protracted intervals between the Agent Orange exposures and disease emergence, additional research is needed to identify mechanistic correlates of the related neurological disorders, including lifestyle co-factors.

02 October 2022

Is Russia making it too easy for Ukraine to recapture their stolen territory? I think so.

Ukrainian defenders have bravely charged back into their home territories stolen by the Russians. The world marvels at the "mouse that roared." How has a much smaller nation with a far smaller military been so successful against Mother Russia?

Reading of their advances against Russia, I'm reminded  of how the Nazi juggernaut easily rolled over Russia's initial ineffective defense. The Soviet Union's defeat seemed inevitable.

But Hitler, like Napoleon before him, overlooked one of Russia's two most powerful defenses: One –Stalin knew he could trade territory for time, and Two – huge population from which to form hundreds of divisions that took that territory back, even the Ukraine which Germany had seized and controlled for two years. 

I fear Russia has allowed Ukraine to roll back into their stolen eastern regions. Pulling back his heavy forces, Russia may have tricked Ukraine into extended its own lines of communication and support far from the country's more populated western region. And much further from NATO's resupply from Poland. This might invite easy interdiction by Russian air power, destroying everything from the Polish-Ukrainian boarder east to the Ukrainian-Russian boarder; Russia has earlier bombed within twelve miles of Poland.  

The Ukrainian interior presents 1,100km of soft rail and highway targets inviting sudden Russian destruction.

By pulling back, Russia seems to have invited Ukrainian forces to mass within easy striking distance from behind the boarder. I believe Russian forces are reorganizing and resupplying on their "home turf, " letting the defenders exhaust much of their strength in the advance to retake eastern provinces. If Ukrainian lines of communication are interdicted by Russian rocket and air power, with NATO equipment destroyed by the Russians before it could resupply the defenders, lessons from World War II might be seen again with a Russian steamroller . 

It would be a fatal blow if Belarus then sent its forces into Ukraine. Ukrainian forces would be smashed from both front and rear, and possibly from the south as well if Russian military in Crimea assumes the offensive. 

31 August 2022

VA makes all toxic-exposure conditions presumptive immediately following signing of PACT Act! Great News - no further waiting!

13 June 2022

Most Ridiculous c-123 Agent Orange Exposure VA Disability Claims

OUTRAGEOUS! Where do they make these things up? Ever since June 2015 once VA acknowledged the C-123 Agent Orange contamination with their new regulation granting service connection, we've seen the most ridiculous statements from vets trying to climb onto the FREELOADER disability bandwagon.

Granted, their claimed ailments may be legitimate, but judge for yourself these phony claims of C-123 exposure. These are taken from VA Board of Veterans Appeals records.

1. C-123 aircraft flew from my aircraft carrier and exposed me to Agent Orange herbicide.

2. I was a Navy medic on many C-123 aeromedical evacuation missions in Guam (or from Guam to
Thailand, Japan, etc., pick one.

3. I was a security policeman and flew armed escort on many C-123 missions in the USA.

4. I refueled C-123 aircraft in Alaska (or California, or Thailand, Guam, whatever) that had sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam.

5. I often flew in a C-123 as a member of the Air Force band in Europe.

6. I was a passenger on a C-123 flight.

7. A C-123 was parked next to my aircraft AT (fill in whatever base name interests you.)

8. I cleaned Agent Orange spills from C-123 airplanes in the Philippines (or Guam, Thailand, Korea, etc.)

9. I built a C-123 Agent Orange storage shed in the Philippines.

10. I loaded drums of Agent Orange aboard C-123s in (pick any country, any state.)

11. I worked C-123 aircraft as an air traffic controller at Clark Air Base, Philippines.

12. I was exposed as a Navy stock clerk while stationed in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, from June 1969 to March 1971.

13. I was exposed to herbicides while serving at Howard Air Force Base in Panama as a security policeman and guarded the C-123 aircraft, which carried herbicides to the Republic of Vietnam, and guarded other areas where herbicide agents were regularly sprayed.

14. I was exposed to herbicides during Operation Ranch Hand while stationed at Dover Air Force Base. I worked on C-133 and C-141 aircraft on nightshifts and he moved barrels with unknown liquids from the aircraft.

15. I was exposed to C-123 at Gunter, Lackland, Maxwell without any foreign service.

16, As an inventory supply management specialist, my herbicide exposure was gained while moving herbicide-laden C-123 aircraft parts at Williams Air Force Base. The aircraft parts were from aircraft that were returning from Vietnam. My duties included tagging parts, putting them in a box and sending them to various places to be reused, fixed or for some other purpose.

17. I was a refueling specialist and serviced numerous airplanes returning from Vietnam, including C-123, C-124, and F-100 airplanes, from 1962 to 1966 while stationed at Biggs, Malmstrom, and Ramey Air Force Bases.

18. I refueled various aircraft, including C-123s, at Shemya Air force base in Alaska and at the Langley Air force base in Virginia.

19. While stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DMAFB) in Tucson, Arizona, as a Law Enforcement Specialist (LES), I was exposed to both toxic substances and agent orange. C-123 aircraft stationed at DMAFB were contaminated with agent orange.

06 June 2022

US Court of Appeals agrees Agent Orange exposure & PTST can be disabling despite absence of medical diagnosis



"In some situations, such as for post-traumatic stress disorder, herbicide exposure in Vietnam, and unexplained illnesses affecting Middle East veterans, medical science simply has been unable, as of yet, to diagnose the disabling impact of service for veterans affected by these conditions." 

This ruling might help vets claim disabilities not included in the VA's recognized list of Agent Orange illnesses.

13 April 2022

06 April 2022

New Diagnosis - Parkinson's Disease

New Diagnosis - Parkinson's Disease

They might have figured out some of the problems I've been having...I got diagnosed with Parkinson's last week. The symptoms are there but don't seem to be advancing too fast, so at age 75 I can hope to "age out" of the worst of it.

Another blessing brought to us by Agent Orange! Parkinson's, Parkinsonism and Parkinsons-like symptoms are now considered Agent Orange presumptive illnesses, along with bladder cancer and all the old favorites!

21 February 2022

College Roommate VA Disability Max'd Up to 100%!

Yesterday my college roommate Paul heard from VA that his supplemental claim for disability has been approved. He's now backdated 100% to December 2020! Great news, following the first claim being approved earlier for hearing loss at 40%. My strategy helping him was to tie certain current problems to his hearing loss as secondary issues. VA has agreed, following an appeal that reversed their initial denial.

Now, he will get a better disability compensation, medical care for himself and family, some state benefits and, if and hen needed, nursing home or other such advanced care.

These are earned entitlements which he has been denied for the past half-century. Denied VA medical care, GI home loan, every state benefit withheld. There's no catch-up for what he's been refused.

Remember: this is a good outcome but it really is an immense VA failure! Paul first applied for VA disability benefits when he was released from active duty in 1969. He lived with his disability and forgot all about the VA claim which, decades later, was finally found in his Army dental records. The VA never found this critical document: It took his attorney Katrina Eagle a couple hours. Perhaps...VA don't give a damn?

A veteran has a reasonable beef with the VA when they take half a century to resolve a claim, meanwhile denying all federal and state benefits. Paul has a beef, but right now he's simply glad things have gotten straightened out.

The VA tried. Dragged it out fifty years, and if only the process had taken a bit longer, until Paul had passed, VA could cancel his claim altogether because when the vet dies, so does the claim. Too bad, VA. At least you made it into your disgusting "Claim Ignored 50 Years Club."

16 December 2021

Helped my college roommate win huge, 52-year old VA disability claim!

$155,000. It will be in his bank on Monday," said his attorney K. E, when she called to give me the great news. My old college roommate has won a 52-year old VA claim he'd long-forgotten having submitting in 1969 when he left active duty. 

I got his initial VA claim approved earlier this year at 40% disability with an initial check for $7,000, paying what was due from November 2020 when I mailed it. However, I knew he needed professional help trying to get other serious disabilities related to what the VA decided is already service-connected.

I recommended the attorney I knew best, who also has her solo veteran-focused practice near my friend. Her expertise uncovered the fact that his initial claim had been submitted back in 1969, filed and lost somehow into his VA dental records and never adjudicated. She slapped the paperwork into the mail to catch up with this VA error, and today's great news comes as a blessing for my old friend.

What a happy day!

11 November 2021

Update on VA use of AFSC codes for C-123 service:

Update on VA use of AFSC codes for C-123 service:

I argued with VA recently about their poor quality collection of eligible AFSCs for establishing C-123 service, and they apparently now will accept an AFSC on their list as well as a specific description of duties involving C-123 contact. They are covering aircrews, maintainers, AME and others. Most importantly, I believe this should help Aerial Port personnel apply and succeed with Agent Orange claims. Let me know.


Their letters to/from me:


Hello, Dr. Erickson spoke very highly of you and so it was nice to see your email.

BVA actions are a legal review process over which I have no jurisdiction, but I am happy to forward your email and the attachment to VBA and the office that handles Agent Orange related actions. 

I will ask that they review the unit name change from 33rd AES (Pittsburgh) to the 911th and the occupational codes.  I will also make them aware that Mr. Dominic Baldini at JSRRC is available to address questions as necessary.

Thank you



Dr. xxx

Chief Consultant, Post-Deployment Health Services  (10P4Q)

Patient Care Services, 810 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20420

O: 202-xxx-xxxx


VA Motto: ICARE [Integrity-Commitment-Advocacy-Respect-Excellence]


From: Wes Carter <
Sent: Saturday, May 23, 2020 9:14 AM
To: Hxxxa R. 


Dear Dr. Hxxx,

Please forgive another intrusion on an issue involving C-123 veterans. We continue to have BVA claims denied on the basis of veterans having AFSCs not listed, or units not listed, or units which are the same organization but have changed names.

In on case most troubling to me, a widow's 2008 claim continues being denied by VBA and BVA. Her husband's AFSC 90250 (medical technician) is for aeromedical evacuation technician but isn't on the various lists, at least not those used by BVA to deny claims. Her husband's C-123 aeromedical evacuation squadron was the 33rd AES at Pittsburgh, now changed names to the 911th as shown on VA lists but her claim was denied by BVA disregarding that detail.

Once BVA has successfully denied a claim the veteran or survivor is lost unless able to afford an attorney and this woman, living on Social Security, is not so fortunate. 

Five years ago C-123 veterans won Agent Orange benefits. Four years ago I provided expert details to support her claim, and last year her claim was successfully opposed by BVA citing the AFSC and unit name.

I realize this is but one claim but it is a person, one of our veteran's widows and thus particularly important to every Air Force veteran. Please do what you can to invite Mr. Dominic Baldini at JSRRC to update VA on the basis of Air Force documents I've provided him, and do what you can to update BVA on the injustice they do blocking worthwhile claims.

Here is the BVA language used to prevent a claim's approval. Even though the text mentions medical crew members, the claim is denied because no listing of medical crew AFSCs is shown.  Fortunately, some BVA judges are less concerned with using the issue for preventing approvals and realize the problem, thus permitting flight nurses, flight surgeons and aeromedical evacuation technicians' claims to be considered even though not one of their AFSCs is listed.

VA has published a list of military units who had regular and repeated exposure to contaminated Operation Ranch Hand C-123s, used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam, as flight, maintenance, or medical crew members.  VA has also published a list of specialty codes for military personnel who had regular and repeated exposure to contaminated Operation Ranch Hand C-123s, used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam, as flight, maintenance, or medical crew members. Those codes for enlisted personnel are flight engineer/aircraft loadmaster (1130-1149), aircrew life support specialist (1220-1229), and aircraft maintenance specialist/flight technicians (4313-4359). Id. 
Thus, to warrant presumptive exposure based on contact with a C-123, a Veteran must have been stationed at one of the identified bases during the specified time period with one of the listed units. The Veteran must also have a military occupational specialty that entailed that he regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained or served onboard C-123 aircraft.
And from another BVA decision:
Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 6.10.26 AM.png

Can you please bring this to the attention of VA folks able to correct the injustice being done these claimants?

Thank you,


   Wes Carter

VA includes C-123 veterans in Agent Orange publication

 They haven't forgotten about our little group of veterans! The VA included our agent orange exposure in this recent publication titled: 

Garrison exposures and health concerns


Passing of Dave Fitzgerald, 731st Nav

Sad to say, I missed this email from John Harris about the passing of Dave Fitzgerald in August. 

Friends and fellow reservists,
It is with sadness that I tell you that my good friend and fine gentleman Dave Fitzgerald passed away Sunday from a complication from an Agent Orange disease. Dave was 83, a retired navigator in the 731st, and a school teacher here in Mashpee.


Susie and I met him and his wife Sue at our fitness center frequently and met for lunch or dinner occasionally over the years. He was a very popular teacher and the PA Announcer for the High School football team. He was always ready to tell his students stories about his time in the 731st. (Don't worry, he always cleaned them up, according to my sons who were both in his Spanish class!)
The ceremony will be for family only at the VA cemetery at Bourne.

John Harris

04 November 2021

Who says VA has no sense of humor? NOT ME!!


"Not so," I insisted and whipped out my ID cards. "Oh, bother," said the claims agent as she looked forward to an entire afternoon correcting VA's boo-boo. Here's how VA posted the changes: (Third line under "STATUS of Your Claim")

11 August 2021

Msgt Tom Sutherin has passed; veteran of Rickenbacker's C-123 "Buckeye" Wing

Thomas H. "Tom" Sutherin, Retired (USAF) Master Seargent , age 77 of Troy, passed away Friday, August 6, 2021. He was born March 19, 1944 in Jefferson, OH to the late Hugh and Emma (Hartline) Sutherin.

He was preceded in death by his daughter Rae Ann Sutherin and two brothers, Hugh E. "Sonny" Sutherin and Jerry Sutherin.

Those left to cherish Tom's memory include his wife Connie (Myers) Sutherin, whom he married April 18, 1993; daughters Natalie Miller (Terry) of Columbus and Natosha Schaefer (Patrick) of Troy; son Seth Payne (Tracy) of Somerset; five grandsons, four granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren, and many special relatives and friends.

Tom was a graduate of Toronto High School and soon after joined the Air Force where he served his country proudly from 1962-1991 when he retired a decorated Master Seargent. Tom enjoyed golfing, fishing, and camping, but most importantly, he loved spending time with his children and grandchildren. He was a life member of AmVets Post #88, Troy, a life member of VFW Post #5436, Troy, American Legions Post #43, Troy, Troy Eagles #971, life member of Troy Fish and Game, and an original and long-standing member of the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy. Tom was also a member of Masonic Lodge #670 in Canal Winchester, OH.

A Celebration of Life will be held at VFW Post #5436 at 2220 Lefevre Rd. in Troy. Details to follow. Memorial contributions may be given to the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy in the care of the VFW. Arrangements entrusted to Fisher-Cheney Funeral Home, Troy. Condolences may be left for the family at www.fisher-cheneyfuneralhome.com .

Tom McVey

President 2014-2021
Buckeye Wing Association

28 June 2021

American Legion – Nine Years of Supporting C-123 Veterans

The American Legion got the ball rolling for C-123 veterans and our Agent Orange concerns. In 2012 Dr. Jeanie Stellman and I visited the Legion's DC offices for a meeting with their national leadership. We briefed them on Stellman's research and Air Force materials that established our Agent Orange exposures, and asked the Legion to get behind us with the power of their nearly one million members.

They said yes, and for us to return the next day with a draft resolution to be voted on at their next national convention. Stellman and I wrote it that night, the Legion executives accepted it, and our resolution was eventually approved as Resolution 128 at the 2012 national convention.

The Legion also led in January 2015 after the Institute of Medicine determined we'd been exposed to Agent Orange aboard our aircraft. Along with the rest of the "Big Six" veterans organizations they insisted that VA Secretary Bob McDonald act on the IOM findings, which he finally did on June 19 2015. 2100 C-123 aircrews and maintainers, and their survivors, got VA Agent Orange benefits that day, with much thanks due the American Legion.

Over the next few years, a number of articles about C-123 veterans appeared in Legion publications. I've gathered them along with Resolution 128 for your review.

In May I asked our local post to initiate a Colorado resolution supporting Gold Star Wives property tax exemption, and it was approved by the entire state organization on June 28. Lesson for me: resolutions are the Legion's slow but steady march towards better veterans benefits.

And again...thanks Legion!

26 June 2021

Download Available: C-123 Files Collection (49MB)

 Here's a 49MB file, a disorganized collection of press releases, clippings, essays and other materials. Not included are AF and VA source documents dealing with C-123 Agent Orange, a file I'll post soon. I call this "disorganized" because materials are just what I came across with more mentions of my own name than anyone else wants to read.

Just scan with any QR code reader:

10 June 2021


Paul (left) and Wes, San Diego 1967

PAUL HANSEN, my roommate from college days and friend through half a century, is very deaf. He hears sounds but needs powerful hearing aids to grasp the words. He and I were roommates during and then after college because I joined IBM in San Diego and recruited him. We even were occasional bunkmates in the Army, and travels over the years gave us the opportunity to stay in touch. I'm writing this note to remind all veterans that military service has made us  brothers and sisters; we should always help others, including getting them help from the VA when needed.

Paul was supposed to be best man at my wedding on June 14, 1969, but he instead found himself headed off for Army basic training. While at Fort Bragg he had an incident on the rifle range leaving him but totally deaf for days. He was seen at the base medical clinic but the damage was done: he gradually regained most of his hearing after a week of rest, but then year after year, each ear "rang" louder and louder as Paul's tinnitus developed. And so did his bilateral hearing loss worsen. A lot!

This was a half century ago. SP5 Paul Hansen was a traditional Army reservist, serving his initial six months of Active Duty, but no active duty after that to qualify him as a veteran, nothing making him eligible for VA care and benefits. Paul finished his service obligation and began life's journey in earnest.

Because we kept in touch and visited occasionally, I was able to notice Paul's hearing loss and urged him to apply to the VA. In fact, I even filled out his disability claim somewhere around 2014 or so. But Paul is a perfect example of procrastination, and the application lay somewhere, ignored until it got shuffled into some pile of documents never to be seen again. Okay, I'm a nag. Phone call after phone call, "how ya doin" was followed by reminding him to file with the VA.

Paul's hearing loss was significant, but the need was for him to establish veteran status with VA, entitling him to hearing aids but also vital health care for a multitude of other problems. The disability compensation of his claim was an insignificant concern  – Paul needed the wide range of VA benefits due disabled veterans and he'd never be one without getting around to submitting his claim.

It got to the point that we both realized it just wasn't going to get done, and with his permission I went ahead and applied to the VA for tinnitus and hearing loss disabilities. The initial obstacle of getting Paul to file finally accomplished, we next moved to finding proof of his Army rifle range problem. I filed a request with the Army's personnel records center in St. Louis and the vital proof of injury medical records were promptly sent to us. 

I then had to build an argument that even though he was a traditional from Reservist fifty years back, Paul's injury should entitle him VA care and benefits. Paul wasn't even a proper veteran per the law because he'd never performed a period of active duty after basic training. But have a medical background and I also knew a loophole: the law provides that Reservists and National Guard troops, if they have a disabling injury during their initial active duty or on subsequent training, that injury satisfies the law's requirements for full veteran status. Further, because Paul's training was during the Vietnam war he'd have a wider range of important coverages as a wartime veteran but only if he succeeded in his claim. 

I also wrote a lengthy report about the Army's history of troops' hearing injuries in the years before earplugs were even permitted on a rifle range. I quoted similar VA disability claims from other veterans where applicants had claims approved, even years later like Paul. Because of Paul's age and health, his claim needed to be approved on the first pass, not rejected for correction or appeal. Too often, claims have flaws that delay the process a year: we expected Paul would get a small 10% disability award for his hearing but worried about any delays.

This week, VA having approved his claim on the first pass, Paul Hansen became an honored disabled veteran. 40% disabled, not just 10% as I hoped. Another health issue still is under consideration and we're hoping it will put Paul over 50% disability, at which point all his medical care is provided free. Other benefits:

The VA decision on his application came in the mail to announce his disability retroactive to December 2020, the date VA received his claim. Paul, faced with many health issues, is finally entitled to VA hearing aids and so many other benefits.

Here, I'll take a firm grasp on my initial urge to tell Paul what his retroactive check would have totaled if HE'D ONLY DONE AS I SUGGESTED SEVEN YEARS AGO.

A note: Paul's dad's Coast Guard bridge coat saved my life once, literally. But that's another story.

05 May 2021

Westover Maintainer Wins C-123 Orange Award & 12 months of retroactive benefits!

March was a lucky month for one 439th maintainer, a C-123 veteran whose claim for Agent Orange-related diabetes was granted back in 2015 BUT who wisely pressed further.

His persistence was recognized in January by the VA Board of Veterans Appeals. In Citation A21006352 BVA backdated his claim by a year and gave him twelve more months of retroactive compensation.

You might remember that VA granted C-123 vets our Agent Orange presumptive benefits in June 2015. The legal process was called a "liberalizing regulation," and ordinarily there is no retroactive compensation possible for claims ...almost all C-123 claims date from June 19 2015 on.

But not our happy maintainer! He took advantage of VA making a "clear and unmistakeable error" in his initial claim, and often when a CUE is involved, many date restrictions are waived in the interest of fairness to the veteran. 

Here's the judge's reasoning about the diabetes, the C-123 and the disability claim:

When C-123 related exposure occurs during reserve or guard service during a period of non-active duty, the effective date is June 19, 2015, the date 38 C.F.R. § 3.307 (a)(6)(v) became effective, which is what allows VA to consider C-123 related herbicide exposure as an “injury” thereby allowing service connection.  The law under 38 C.F.R. § 3.307 states an individual who performed service in the Air Force or Air Force Reserve under circumstances in which the individual concerned regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft known to have been used to spray an herbicide agent during the Vietnam era shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent.  For purposes of this paragraph, “regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft” means that the individual was assigned to an Air Force or Air Force Reserve squadron when the squadron was permanently assigned one of the affected aircraft and the individual had an Air Force Specialty Code indicating duties as a flight, ground maintenance, or medical crew member on such aircraft. Such exposure constitutes an injury under 38 U.S.C. § 101 (24)(B) and (C). If an individual described in this paragraph develops a disease listed in 38 C.F.R. § 3.309 (e) as specified in paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section, it will be presumed that the individual concerned became disabled during that service for purposes of establishing that the individual served in the active military, naval, or air service.

When C-123 related herbicide exposure occurs during a period of active duty, regular effective date rules apply under 38 C.F.R. § 3.400, because herbicide exposure is being conceded and applied under 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.6, 3.309 (a), and 3.307 (a)(6)(iii) & (iv).  

In the October 2015 rating decision, the RO recognized the Veteran’s exposure to C123K aircraft while stationed at Westover Air Force Base as part of the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing and working as an aircraft maintenance specialist in the Air Force Reserves from July 18, 1979 through September 3, 1981, based on military personnel records.  However, the RO erroneously failed to apply 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 (b)(2)(ii), which provides the effective date is the date entitlement arose, if claim is received within 1 year after separation from active duty; otherwise date of receipt of claim, or date entitlement arose, whichever is later.  

A review of the evidence of record reflects that on February 24, 2014, the Veteran filed both a formal claim for service connection for diabetes mellitus due to Agent Orange exposure.  Military personnel records added to the Veteran’s claims file in March 2014 reflect that the Veteran was assigned to 436th Original Maintenance Squad as an aircraft mechanic during his military service.  An April 2013 VA examination report reflects a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, which was confirmed in November 2013. See Capri, June 2013; Medical Treatment Record-Non-Government Facility, February 2014.  Additionally, the evidence of record contained documentation, provided by the Veteran, showing contaminated C-123 located at Westover AFB being worked on by servicemembers assigned to 439th. 

It is undebatable, that at the time of the October 2015 rating decision, 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 (b)(2)(ii) was applicable and the regulation providing a presumption of exposure to herbicide was in effect.  

The correct facts, as they were known at the time, were before the RO in October 2015, the regulatory provision then extant was not applied, and the failure to correctly apply the regulation manifestly changed the outcome of the October rating decision.  This is not a case of a claim for retroactive benefits but rather the direct application of regulations in effect and evidence of record at the time of the decision.  The criteria for service connection was satisfied.  The record had evidence of a diagnosis of diabetes in April 2013, and the regulation establishing the presumption of exposure which established an injury during Reserve duty that is presumed to have been caused by that exposure.  

The Board finds that the clear and unmistakable error of law committed by the RO in the October 2015 rating decision, compels the conclusion, to which reasonable minds could not differ, that the result would have been manifestly different had the error not been made and the effective date of February 24, 2014 (the date VA received the claim) would have been assigned.  Therefore, the Veteran’s request for revision is granted and the October 2015 rating decision is revised to reflect an earlier effective date of February 24, 2014 for the grant of service connection for diabetes mellitus II associated with herbicide exposure. 


26 April 2021

Property Tax Relief for Colorado Gold Star Widows!


Fourteen states have a total property tax exemption, and they are an outstanding example to the other 36! Property tax relief is a vital benefit, helping to keep families of America's fallen servicemembers in reasonable financial health, and it is a good deal for each state! Veterans and their survivors bring a tremendous economic boon to their communities. 

Here in Colorado, over 26,000 jobs are created by retired military, vets and survivors! Their pensions pay for health care, food, transportation, consumer items, housing – and their pensions come to Colorado to circulate throughout the economy and multiply about five times over. Citizens, good veterans' benefits are even better for the states offering them. I sure wish Colorado was one of the leaders, but instead, only about 25th among the states.

Follow at www.codisabledvet.blogspot.com

09 April 2021

We're Trying to Get Colorado's Gold Star Wives Some Property Tax Relief

That's right! It seems this state legislature simply didn't contemplate the possibility of Colorado soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines dying on active duty. That's why Colorado seem to have forgotten to offer our Gold Star Wives the same widows' benefits as we provide to survivors of totally disabled veterans.

That's unjust and plain WRONG! But not a single widow of an active duty service member
is permitted the Colorado Disabled Veteran's Survivor Property Tax Exemption, a small
exemption saving widows between $400-$600 a year.

Why? Our state constitution's Article X Section 3.5 permits the exemption only to widows of 
disabled veterans already in receipt of the benefit. Dying on Active Duty means not being
able to complete the application process – because the service member died first!

This is Really an Amazing and Ridiculous Catch-22!

Why is the small property tax exemption of value to Gold Star Wives?

First, it shows the state's respect and appreciation for the loss borne by these widows and widowers. The partial tax exemption would only save about $400 to $600. It would seem a minor issue to most of us. 

But look at this from a Gold Star Widow's perspective. Circumstances vary, but if eligible widows can receive half of the service member's base pay. More than half of all military deaths are E-5 and below. An Army E-5 three-stripe sergeant would have a widow pension of under $2,000 per month.The VA has "Dependents Indemnity Compensation," where if eligible a survivor might receive $1,300 per month. So, at best, the sergeant's widow (or widower) hopes for a modest $39,000 per year.

How far does that go? In Colorado, the average home mortgage cost is $1,700 per month, and with typical associated costs like taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance, a monthly cost of over $2,400 or $28,000 annually. You can do the math – that leaves $916 per month for food, transportation, insurance, clothing. 

Summary: Colorado Life did a thorough report on the money necessary to live in Colorado one needs 
$4,317.68 per month to live in Colorado if there is a mortgage involved. Oops – that leaves our widow short by over $12,000 per year. That's why the paltry $400-$600 partial property tax exemption is important. 

The burden of property tax is a huge reason so many citizens can never afford a home, and that's even more true for military folks. That's why so few junior military own homes at the time of death and why so few widows are affected by this proposed tax exemption. For me, I wish it was a total tax exemption as many states provide! The survivor of a service member who dies on active duty obviously have to make many, many compromises to live on $12,000 less per year than what "average" citizens need. 

17 March 2021

Coby Johnson's son Chris dropped us a note about his dad's Agent Orange VA award.

Not sure the best place to post this. My father, Wayne "Coby" Johnson succumbed to his fight with lung cancer on 9/20/20. 

He was a pilot and member of the 355th and 356th TAS at Rickenbacker and the 731st TAS at Westover. I would like to thank all of members of this community and this website specifically. 

Although he was initially denied his medical claim with the VA we were able to appeal the decision and he received the care and benefits he earned through the last year of his life. Thank you. https://www.wilmingtoncares.com/obituary/wayne-coby-johnson/

Thanks for writing, and God Bless your dad.

15 March 2021


Are you ineligible for VA benefits because you're a "traditional reservist?"
If hearing injuries resulting from flight or aircraft maintenance duties might qualify you for VA compensation and other benefits. Here's how.
Traditional reservists aren't eligible for most VA benefits because our "active duty for training" doesn't count towards true veteran status. Regardless of how long one's initial active duty for basic and technical school might be, the law doesn't recognize that as "active service." VA recognizes completion of an active duty enlistment, or active duty during wartime to qualify a servicemember for benefits, but UTAs, annual tour, active duty for basic and other training are grouped into ineligible "active duty for training." No bennies.
BUT – there'a a big exception to that for any disabling injury or disease you might experience.
Tinnitus is just one such injury. That ringing in the ears, or wind noise or low hum is caused by loud noises. Noises like a C-123 or C-130 makes. Noises like an M-16 makes at 154dB.
Flyers, tank crews, infantry, artillery and others around loud noises in a military setting often suffer tinnitus, and VA recognizes that as a frequent disability - in fact, it is the most common disability veterans have.
And if you have tinnitus you might be entitled to VA care and compensation for that disability, and if you are, that makes you a veteran with all the benefits that wartime veterans receive.
I got into this recently to help an army reservist who had tinnitus from his time in basic training when he fired the M-14 rifle and did not have any ear protection. Noises of 85 dB and above can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, and our aircraft are far noisier than that: The cockpit is steady at over 112 dB. The noise is worse in the rear!
After my altitude chamber ride at Edwards AFB I started flying in 1974. I recall that by 1975 or so we received the yellow foam earplugs and they provided some protection from noise hazards. But there was still significant noise reaching the inner ear to cause damage. This kind of damage is permanent and cumulative and can evidence itself in tinnitus and/or hearing loss even years later.
Here is my point in the VA's own words: “When a claim for service connection is based on a period of active duty for training, there must be evidence that the individual concerned became disabled as a result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty during the period of active duty for training.“
That is per 38 U.S.C. § 1131 (see also 38 U.S.C. § 1110; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a). See CAVC Hensley v. Brown – “claimant may establish direct service connection for a hearing disability initially manifest several years after separation from service on the basis of evidence showing that the current hearing loss is causally related to injury or disease suffered in service.”( 5 Vet. App. 155, 164 (1993).” Also see VA Training Letter 10-02 at 15 (rescinded re: incorporation into VBA Adjudication Procedures Manual (M21-1), pt. III, subpt. iv, ch. 4, § D.1-3)
VA compensation for a tinnitus disability is a modest $144 per month, but the real importance here is that a hearing injury establishes legal veteran status with all the benefits that attach to being a wartime veteran (we've been in a period of war ever since Desert Storm.) Sometimes there are secondary issues to hearing loss like depression or hypertension. Rarely, there have been vets getting up to 50% disability ($995/month) based on hearing loss and complications.
You might not need them now, but benefits include pension rights, medical and pharmacy (perhaps with modest co-payments,) rehab, hearing aids, VA home loan, e