Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dioxin Follow on: Strategies for VA Claims

Recently we posted an article written by Chuck Graham and Susie Belanger titled Dioxin: What the U.S. Navy knew and didn’t [or wouldn’t!] tell us.

This is a follow on to that post with a suggested strategy on how Veterans can use the documents in the article to support their claims in the DVA's claims processing system.

Readers with VA Claims in various stages of denial by the VA are welcome to use all of this as additional evidence in the development of their claims. It is of limited use to those who's ships did not get close inshore, but for those who anchored in bays, harbors and estuaries and those who's ships worked in close on Market Time, Naval Gun Fire Support [NGFS], and associated duties should be able to present this, along with other evidence to advance their claims.

That said, this will likely not have an effect on claims at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office level [VARO, or simply RO], but the chances of using this evidence to support a claim as described above successfully increase the farther up the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA] food chain one goes: Board of Veterans Appeals [BVA], and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [CAVC]. It may take a while, but sooner or later, all this documentary and "scientific" evidence in support of granting presumptive exposure will overwhelm the scientific evidence that claims we could not have been exposed because we only served at sea -- of which there is absolutely none. The CAVC recently remanded the Haas claim back to the BVA with the warning that if they are going to deny a claim, they MUST have overwhelming evidence to do so, otherwise they must approve the claim. Simply repeating a line of policy [based on no scientific evidence] will not suffice.

The DVA has recently backed off the ports and harbors exclusion and is now granting claims if a ship tied up to a pier -- or at least they have SAID they would make that change.

With this evidence that the Navy, the Army, the Department of Defense [DoD], and the DVA knew as far back as 1969 of the dangers of dioxin in water supplies, there should be no problem getting a claim approved.

Warning, do not rely completely on the evidence from the documents listed as proof of exposure. Veterans must provide much more evidence, such as deck logs, charts showing ship's locations, letters, buddy statements, and/or official records of incidents leading to exposure.

What this evidence does is provide a high mountain of evidence that exposure MORE THAN LIKELY occurred, which, according to the recent Haas remand, requires the DVA to prove overwhelmingly that exposure did not occur. They cannot.

And suddenly, at least at the CAVC, the WORD of the DVA is no long good enough on its own.

Veterans with claims should also know that their true salvation concerning Agent Orange exposure is the timely enactment of HR 2254, and should therefore put all the pressure they can bring to bear on their Congressional Representatives and both their Senators to fully SUPPORT and FUND HR 2254. This MUST be accomplished soon. We find it impossible to believe that of all our readers and associates, none have any political connection, none worked on campaigns, none feel the power to tell an incumbent, "If you don't fully support this bill and its funding, and don't work to get it enacted, I will ensure that you have far fewer votes, especially among Veterans the next time you run."

Do not write letters unless you intend to fax them. If you get the canned response, telling you all about the bill and how the Congressman works hard on behalf of Veterans, and how he will keep your thoughts in mind should the bill reach the floor...," send back this response:

Thank you for your kind response to my request that you actively support and co-sponsor HR 2254. You response assures that I will keep your interest in mind when I next enter a polling booth with you on the ballot.
Then move on to your Senators.

We also now have resolutions under way in the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts General Assemblies, and perhaps the Illinois legislature as well. These resolutions call for their respective state Secretary of State to forward a request to the President of the United States, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and each member of that state's Congressional Delegation to fully fund and support HR 2254, the Agent Orange Act of 2009.

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

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5 comments:

VNVets said...

I believe this information means the death of the DVA's "Boots on the Ground" policy.

VNVets

Rich Hauzinger said...

Dear Blue Water Nam Vets, a question? Do you think a march on Washington prior to the vote on this bill is a good thought. I would imagine the site of 200,000 older vets, some in wheel chairs, some walking with canes, would have a tremendous impact on the senators and congressman. What do you think, Rich in Mass.

VNVets said...

Rich,

I think it would work...IF you could get 200,000, or maybe 20,000, or even 2,000 Veterans to do it.

Older Veterans have physical and financial limitations, and may have difficulty traveling that far, and younger Veterans don't see the wisdom in supporting older Veteran's fights for benefits.

Get us our benefits and those for the younger Veterans will be far easier to attain.

This is all about government accountability and the blind eye the Government turns toward the future.

Youth seeing this fight might not be so willing to join and serve knowing that should something happen to them, the benefits will likely not be there.

We're rather see the Vets empty out the bars of the VFW and Legion Halls and join with the Auxilliary and wives and march on their local Congressman's office to demand that he support and fund the bill. [checking first to make sure if they already have or not!]

We'd rather see those same VFW and Legion members protest to their own leaders that they have not, and are not doing enough to help Veterans obtain services the government has promised. Neither organization has done much more than lip service to the Agent Orange fight.

Don't know what else to tell you , Rich. I go to DC regularly to see that the CongressCritters are keeping their word, and so far they are. But I'm only one person. My enemy in COngress is the DVA which already tried to distort the cost of the bill by more than ten times what it will actually cost, thus scaring off Congressmen from co-sponsoring the legislation.

If we could get 2,000 Veterans to go to DC and demonstrate in front of DVA HQ, now THAT might accomplish something.

Most of all, what would work best is for people to contact their Congressman, and Senators, ask for full support and funding of HR 2254, and explain the bill will cost about $2.6 Billion the first year [to cover retro benefits] and about a $600 million bump in the annual compensation and pension budget thereafter. [The DVA is telling Congress it is going to cost $27 Billion!].

Identify the enemy. See the enemy. Devise tactics against the enemy, Destroy the enemy.

The enemy is not Congress, it is the DVA, which is run by successive presidential administrations. It is not a Republican or Democratic problem. It is bi-partisan.

Hope that helps.

VNVets

Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree with your death of boots on the ground comment. How many sailors would be affected by a change that said if a ship was tied up to the dock the crew would be presumed to be exposed? Or more pointedly, now many ships actually tied up to a dock in Vietnam? Don't be too confident and overshoot the mark.

VNVets said...

The DVA already is granting benefits to those whose ships docked.

But the information in the main post is sufficient to provide proof that the DVA's policy of boots on the ground is, or will be shortly, dead.

VNVets