Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why Does The DVA Fight So Hard?

One has to wonder why the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA], also known among Veterans as the Department of Veterans Abuse, would fight so hard to deny benefits to Blue Water Navy [BWN], Blue Sky Air Force [BSAF], and the Veterans of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia [TLC].

Indeed, one would also have to wonder why the DVA did everything in its power to derail the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, in his report to the Secretery of Veterans Affairs in the late 1980s castigated the DVA for its interference in scientific studies working on Agent Orange induced illnesses data. So bad was the interference by the DVA that the studies were removed from the auspices of the DVA and given to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Unfortunately, the CDC is a Federal agency and it, too, was susceptible to influence and interference from the DVA.

In his report, Zumwalt also talked about wind drift of clouds of Agent Orange while being sprayed. He estimated that it could, based on prevailing winds, drift as far as 29 kilometers, slightly over 18 miles.

Here were two things in the Zumwalt report, then, that the DVA did not want to hear. They had been stalling, delaying and denying Agent Orange had anything to do with Service Connected disabilities for nearly two decades, even while granting such Service Connection to isolated cases as early as 1972. But those cases had to be proven by the Veterans themselves, and without a shadow of a doubt. You had to leave the DVA with no room to escape in order to win your claim.

Wind drift and scientific studies would prove that the DVA was wrong in their fight.

The Zumwalt report was supressed by classifying the document until it apparently leaked out sometime between 1999 and 2003. So, not only did the DVA suppress the Zumwalt Report, it also applied undue influence on the scientists and statisticians who were conducting the cancer studies, and mortality studies in the 1980s.

We have seen somewhere on the Internet, and we cannot remember where, so this will remain unconfirmed, that in the year 2000, there were less than 8,000 active claims receiving benefits for Agent Orange exposure being paid by the DVA.

Let's look at the numbers. According to WikiAnswers:

8,740,654
Number of Vietnam Era Veterans. (Active duty Aug. 5, 1964 to March 28, 1973 or in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964)

2,594,000
Actually served in-country 1964 - 1973

50,000
Served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964

58,148
Americans were killed or MIA.

304,704
wounded.

3,403,100
Personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China sea waters).

1,000,000 to 1,600,000
Fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.

543,482
Peak troop strength in Vietnam, April 30, 1969
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_US_soldiers_fought_in_the_Vietnam_War

So, if almost 2.6 million US Military personnel served in the Republic of Vietnam, that is, "boots on the ground", then why are so few receiving benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991?

What was it about Agent Orange that prompted the DVA to fight against benefits as far back as during the Vietnam War, a fight they are still engaged in today, in a case that is on the verge of possibly going to the Supreme Court.

There are two keys here. One leads to the other.

Service Connection:

By denying eligibility for Agent Orange presumptive exposure, the DVA stands to reduce the number of Veterans receiving compensation for Service Connected disabilities due to herbicide exposure.

Liability:
More importantly, as the only Federal agency with standing to do so, when the DVA denies service connection for presumptive exposure to herbicides, it also denies thousands of Veterans the real legal ability to pursue relief through civil courts for damage to their bodies from exposure to Agent Orange.
So, who is liable -- that is, who is being protected? Initially, it was the chemical companies that produced the herbicides. But that was simply a smoke screen. The class action suit that won settlements from the chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange and the other "rainbow herbicides" in the late 1990s is now closed. The Federal Judge who presided over the case has agressively protected the chemical companies since the settlement, refusing to allow the case to be reopened to new claimants for any reason, adamantly denying the civil rights to their day in court to thousands of potential new claimants. Early in the course of this trial, the Federal Government, initially a defendant, negotiated it's way out of the case, leaving the chemical coprporations hung out to dry.

Since that time, the game has changed. Testimony in another case, Winters vs Diamond-Shamrock, reports that the Hercules Corporation warned the Department of Defense that the formula they required in their contract was far too toxic, far too potent, to be handled without warning. They wanted to put warnings on the barrels. The Department of Defense warned them back that unless they provided the required formula and in the barrels marked as contracted, that is, without warnings, Hercules would be subject to criminal charges! Exactly what criminal charges is not specified, nor can we imagine what criminal laws would be broken for adding a warning to those who handle the herbicides that it was highly toxic, and dangerous to those who came in contact with it.

That takes the chemical companies off the hook. That puts the crosshairs squarely on the United States Government.

How does this connect? Service connection for presumptive exposure to herbicides gives an instant admission from the Federal government that the thousands of Veterans it is dealing with were exposed to herbicides. By denying the easiest group to deny, the TLC Veterans, right from the start of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, and eventually the Blue Sky Air Force in 1993, and the Blue Water Navy in 2002, the DVA was not protecting the chemical manufacturers like originally thought, but was indeed protecting the United State Government from liabilty in the issue of herbicide exposure. Where the Federal government once was able to negotiate itself from the list of defendants in a civil class action suit, any new actions would not only hold the U.S. Government culpable, but wholly, and solely liable.

That is why the Judge will not reopen the class action suit, and that is why the DVA will fight to the Supreme Court to prevent anyone else from becoming eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange/herbicides. The past two administrations, under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, are protecting the US Government from a potential civil action that could conceivably cost the American taxpayers perhaps as much as bailing out the banking industry.

President G. H. W. Bush, speaking at the 1989 offical ceremony establishing the Department of Veterans affairs as a cabinet level department, remarked, "There is only one place for the veterans of America: in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America."

As it turns out, that is only true when the Veteran is not a part of a group which might sue the government for millions, perhaps billions of dollars.

The shameful thing is, there is a good chance that if the DVA had simply paid the benefits Congress intended, there likely would not have been a second class action suit. Now, because of their actions, there most assuredly will be one. This time, the Defendant will be the United States Government, specifically, the Department of Defense, for its actions under Secretary Robert S. McNamara.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--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

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous09:11

    VA is hiding behind legal process to avoid paying out benefits for agent orange. The biggest enemy of any era Veteran is the VA. I would be absolutely scared to ask VA for an increase in benefits for fear they would cut off benefits already awarded. Their is no way that I would approach VA without legal council when it comes to benefit discussions.Class action law suits are the only way to deal with them. Plus, the DOD needs to included with the VA. After all, that is where it all began when DOD deceided to expose us. If 6562 and the Haas appeal fails our next step should be getting a bill past that allow Veterans to sue both DOD and VA. If they can waste our tax dollars bailing out crooks then we should not feel bad about spending tax dollars protecting our families and future service members.

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