Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Logic and the DVA

Well, the title is both telling and misleading, as there seems to be something askew in the logic of almost every decision and policy issued by the DVA. Come along with us on a little ride into the past and we'll illustrate what we mean.

Back in the late 1980s, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, or "Zum" as we called him when he was Chief of Naval Operations, wrote a detailed report about the use and effects of herbicides [Agent Orange, or AO for our purposes here]. Zum's report was was done for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and was used to help frame the Agent Orange Act of 1991. After that, the DVA classified it and locked it up for ten years until someone leaked it.

After reviewing the history of the herbicide issue, Zum made his recommendations on compensation for Veterans who were exposed. He offered these two options:

COMPENSATION FOR SERVICE RELATED ILLNESSES

Alternative 1:
Any Vietnam Veteran, or Vietnam Veteran’s child who has a birth defect, should be presumed to have a service—connected health effect if that person suffers from the type of health effects consistent with dioxin exposure and the Veteran’ s health or service record establishes 1) abnormally high TCDD in blood tests; or 2) the veteran’s presence within 20 kilometers and 30 days of a known sprayed area (as shown by HERBs tapes and corresponding company records); or 3) the Veteran’ s presence at fire base perimeters or brown water operations where there is reason believe Agent Orange have- occurred.

Under this alternative compensation would not be provided for those veterans whose exposure came from TCDD by way of the food chain; silt runoff from sprayed areas into unsprayed waterways; some unrecorded U.S. or allied Agent Orange sprayings; inaccurately recorded sprayings; or sprayings whose wind drift was greater than 20 kilometers. Predictably, problems generated by the foregoing oversights, the mass of data to be analyzed as claims were filed, and the known loss of many service records would invalidate many veterans’ legitimate claims

Alternative 2:
Any Vietnam Veteran or child of a Vietnam Veteran who experiences a TCDD—like health effect shall be presumed to have a service—connected disability. This alternative is admittedly broader than the first, and would provide benefits for some veterans who were not exposed to Agent Orange and whose disabilities are not presumably truly service—connected. Nevertheless, it is the only alternative that will not unfairly preclude receipt of benefits by a TCDD exposed Vietnam Veteran.

Furthermore, this alternative is consistent with the Secretary’s decision regarding the Service—connection of non— Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as legal precedent with respect to other diseases presumed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be connected to one or more factors related to military service (i.e. veterans exposed to atomic radiation and POW’s with spastic colon).
This is crystal clear, and Congress opted for Alternative 2 when it enacted the Agent Orange Act of 1991.

Immediately, the DVA began shifting the policy from Alternative 2 to Alternative 1. It barred Veterans from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia [TLC] from qualifying for Agent Orange benefits. Two years later they kicked the Blue Sky Air Force out of the Agent Orange Act. Ten years after the Air Force lost their benefits, the DVA issued a policy banning Blue Water Navy Veterans from receiving benefits.

Clearly, Zum's Alternative 2 would encompass all three Veterans groups. Clearly, the use of the Vietnam Service Medal as the establishing criteria, along with a qualifying disease, for presumptive exposure to herbicides, was how the AO Act of 1991 was administered from the start, and clearly that was the will and intent of Congress.

Zumwalt also talks in his report of how hard the DVA [and its predecessor, the VA] worked to fight off Herbicide benefits -- so hard that they falsified their own studies on contamination health issues, and did so to such a heinous extent that Congress ordered the CDC to take over the scientific studies.

Even then, the DVA interfered, just as they do today in quashing any attempt by the Institute of Medicine, the committee established to review fresh science with a view to expanding herbicide benefits, to do just that.

The motivation, we suspect, was money, and protection of both the chemical company manufacturers of the herbicides and the Federal Government from litigation for liability. Indeed, with the way Europe views the modern day USA, it could have conceivably brought charges in the World Court for Crimes Against Humanity. That possibility still exists [note the recent indictment of Bush Administration officials by a Spanish Court over post 9/11 policies overseas.]

The DVA and its respective successive Adminstrations is not alone in this conspiracy. Add Congress for knowingly ignoring the situation for almost 18 years. Add the Federal Court system that has rebuffed not only new Agent Orange civil cases, but benefit cases - repeatedly. When given an opportunity to set things right, they dodged the issue. The entire Federal Government has dirty hands on this.

But later, the Clinton and Bush administrations saw opportunities to use money appropriated for the Agent Orange benefits for the three disenfranchized groups, to embark on an enormous expansion of government. Thus the Rural Health Care Centers.

Consider, the DVA must locate a facility, or a property on which to construct a facility, supposedly situated in areas with Veterans needing health care from existing treatment facilities that are considered too far away to get to over a reasonable distance. Sounds like a great plan. They then construct or modify existing structures they acquire by rent or purchase. Then they equip them as medical clinics, and finally staff them with medical professionals. Imagine the costs.

Consider the alternative. The DVA issues the Veterans with a medical insurance card which is paid to any provider on the basis of the payment schedule for Medicare and Medicaid. No additional charges may be billed to the Veteran. The Veteran gets to be treated at any facility, no matter where it is. He can go to his family doctor for treatment. It would be covered. Levels of co-pays would vary according to disability rating and/or income levels or non-service-xonnected disabilities.

Which of those alternatives is less expensive?

So why the Rural Health Centers? We suspect there is a system of rewards and perhaps kickbacks with the contracts the DVA signs for property acquisition, and facilities modification or construction. And we think this also goes on at a grand scale, as is evidenced by the astonishing fleecing of the taxpayers to build the new VA hospital in Denver. It was set in place by Secretary Jim Nicholson, who resigned shortly afterwards to return to his "developer" career in the Denver area. The odor of that deal still reeks as far east as DC, where there must be other participants.

But this grew as more and more people needed to be "fed" as part of the system. So the DVA kicked out the Air Force, and later the Navy from AO benefits in order to hijack their appropriations to pay for more and more Rural Health Centers. And they used official intimidation to control employees, and others, such as the Institute of Medicine, to prevent having to give the benefits back to the Veterans.

When and if this alleged system is finally exposed, they can point to the fact that the money went to Veterans. But they will be hard pressed to justify the level of spending on an expensive expansion of government, that needlessly sidetracked funds that should have gone directly to Veterans who are sick and dying, and spent them on the expensive rural health centers. Developers, realtors, contractors and investors get very rich, and Veterans are dying all the while.

And the hands of many in Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Federal Court system will have dirt under their nails from this one.

That is a prediction.

The DVA requires proof to complete a successful claim for exposure to Agent Orange. Thankfully, their own court has now instructed them to provide evidence to deny. So, there are those in the Federal Government who have a clear understanding of what is right.

To date, the performance of the new administration and the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs shows the only difference from their predecessors is an even more virulent stand against the Vietnam Veterans. Two of the first memos issued by the Secretary changed the VA's policy on boots on the ground by putting a 24 hour minimum time limit on it where none existed before, and declare the South China Sea ports of Vietnam are not "Brown Water".

Never mind the question that comes up asking "how long must exposure last to contaminate and eventually kill a human being? Never mind the fact that while anchored in those coastal ports, bays, and harbors, US Navy ships were required to make fresh water out of the water in which they sat, which contained runoff loaded with dioxins.

We ask, then, "What science is behind these two memos?" The answer is: "NONE". Therefore, the motivation is further denial of benefits to the Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans.

The motivation is money.

The motivation is greed, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Veterans of the United States of America, Veterans who went to war, Veterans who almost entirely, were voluntary enlistments in the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force.

We anxiously await the introduction of the Agent Orange Act of 2009 in great hopes that this cycle of greed might be broken and justice be served on those Veterans who are still alive, while the DVA has dallied away the lives of so many others by making a few people wealthy.

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 then 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

Copyright © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.


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