Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Attention Emergency Claimants, Air Force, and Vets of non-Vietnam

This is a comment on the previous post. There is information in it that is important to those of our brothers who served in Thailand, Laos, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, etc. This is for Non-Blue Water Navy Veterans.

It is also valid for those personnel who made port visits, set foot on the ground, etc.

But most important, it is for those who's cases do fall under the Haas stay but are in an emergency situation.

So here is the comment from MSgt Kurt Priessman, USAF [Ret]:

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There are more than some disconnects

As the article notes, some Haas cases will suffer disconnects because of denials. Others are being illegally held by VA Regional Offices under the Ribaudo stay of Haas.

On Wednesday, March 26th, 2008, I had a conversation with an attorney who is taking over as Executive Director of NOVA. After briefly explaining my claim, I was advised to file a pro se request for extraordinary relief through a writ of Mandamus. This had also been advised by another veteran’s legal organization.

As an Air Force retiree, I filed a claim which involves diseases that are presumptive due to exposure to AO while twice traveling through Vietnam (boots on the ground), and direct causation due to exposure to herbicides while at U-Tapao RTNAB and Korat RTAFB, Thailand proven through the authorization to use herbicides in Thailand (USMACTHAI/JUSMAGTHAI Memorandum: Mission Policy on Base Defense), my duties as a Military Working Dog Handler patrolling on the perimeters of the aforementioned bases, and the use of herbicides specified in reports (Project CHECO Report: Base Defense in Thailand).

In addition, my DD Form 214 specifies the award of the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the AF Outstanding Unit Award w/Valor. In the accompanying letter of correction from HQ AFPC/DPPPR, dated July 27, 2007, the letter states, “ We also verified your entitlement to the AFOUA w/2 OLC (1 silver oak leaf cluster and 1 bronze oak leaf cluster), while assigned to the 35 FS, 354 TFW & 355 TFW. In addition, we also verified 2 Bronze Service Stars (2BSS) to the Vietnam Service Medal (VSM), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm (RVNGC w/P), while serving in Vietnam, and the Korea Defense Service Medal, while serving in Korea.”

While listening to the SVR show on Wednesday night, I had a brief conversation with another advocate that indicated that I needed to insure I had exhausted all administrative remedies before filing the above writ.

On Thursday morning at 10:37 a.m. CST, March 27, 2008, I called the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Legal Counsel. I was transferred to another office, and put in contact with Ethan C. Kallet, Esq., the staff attorney on the DVA’s Federal Circuit appeal of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Haas decision.

I stated my case, asking him what recourse he could recommend. He rendered the same determination that the other two attorneys had. My case was not one that should have been stayed by the Regional Office, and he seemed quite upset that Regional Offices were being too stringent on determining which cases to stay, and that he was going to contact someone at the Waco Regional Office concerning the situation. He recommended I should request a meeting with the Veterans Service Center Manager to present my case.

While not expecting immediate results, I called Mr. Lloyd Coffman, Veterans Outreach Director at the Waco Regional Office that afternoon at 1:39 p.m. CST. I got the same runaround as usual. He indicated that the Service Center Manager didn’t meet with veterans, that there were at least ten people between him and me. Despite the recommendation of the OGC counsel, Mr. Coffman also said there was nothing he could do to help; the Regional Offices had been told to stay all AO cases “outside of Vietnam”. He suggested I meet personally with my VFW Service Officer to explain to me why my case was being held, which to me meant that there appears to be an accept “whatever they tell you“ attitude by the VFW.

Based on this incident, and the conversation with OGC, it seems evident that the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Benefit Administration, Disability and Pension Office, and their Regional Offices, Claim Adjudicators, and Service Representatives are ignoring the advice of their attorneys and are holding or denying cases not covered in the CAVC’s stay.

Additionally, with the cancer and diabetes findings in Veterans of Ranch Hand reevaluated by Dr. Michalek and Dr. Pavuk M., the fact of the matter is that the IOM findings based on the original Ranch Hand Study are erroneous, and that there are possibly hundreds of thousands of cases of denials, claims un-filed, or not re-filed because the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs got the answers they originally wanted.

Posted by Kurt Priessman, MSgt, USAF (Ret)

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Thank you Kurt!

This is the kind of information that needs to reach the public so the VA will be held accountable for disobeying the Court. For those of you in this situation, please make your way to the National Veteran Legal Service Program website and follow the instructions in the section titled: Information about filing a motion to advance a case for early consideration and determination.

Good luck and turn to!

VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

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