Thursday, September 01, 2011

More on Our Veteran and the Games DVA is Playing

What appears to be happening at the DVA is perhaps best defined as a bunker mentality.

For more than half a century the Department of Veterans Affairs [and prior to that name they were known as the Veterans Administration], has fought against granting benefits to ANYONE for exposure to Agent Orange.

It is a matter of record that the DVA and its predecessor, the VA, did everything within its power to prevent Agent Orange exposed Veterans from receiving one second of medical treatment, and one penny of compensation for the poisoning they received at the hands of their own government while doing their duty in Combat and Combat Support roles in the Vietnam War.

Indeed, this was an extraordinary effort by the DVA, one that included tampering with scientific studies, something that was at the very least highly unethical, probably highly illegal, and indeed, meets the level of malfeasance in office and criminal negligence when you consider what they were working so hard to prevent: benefits for those Veterans poisoned during the Vietnam War.

This went on for decades. Political and economic motivations were involved, probably from some members of the anti-Vietnam War movement who somehow obtained secure middle and upper level management positions in the DVA, and made every effort to see that those who fought in the war died an early death without benefits, treatment, and without leaving a legacy for their survivors. Legal issues were [and still are] in play as well. If this 19 million gallon spray job over about eight years and just about every square inch of the Republic of Vietnam [South Vietnam] was indeed a massive human and ecological disaster that we now know it to be, then someone was responsible and would be required to pay in a civilian court, and, who knows, perhaps even a criminal court. After all, the Chemical manufacturers warned the Department of Defense that the contracted strength of the chemicals was extremely toxic, and extremely hazardous to handle. Exposure was life threatening if the concentrations and exposure were high enough. Even lower exposure levels would result in serious deadly diseases. And the Department of Defense warned the Chemical Manufacturer that unless they provided the chemical as contracted, in the strength required, and without warnings on the barrels, those Chemical Companies would be subject to "criminal sanctions". [See Federal Court case Winters v. Diamond Shamrock.]

[That puts the onus completely on the United States Government. Nevertheless, when a group of Veterans, with the assistance of several Veterans Service Organizations, sued in Federal Court, the US Government bargained its way out of the suit, leaving the Chemical Manufacturers dangling in the wind. They paid.]

Enter our first hero. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. Initially, Zumwalt, or Zum as he was somewhat affectionately known to the enlisted men under his command, was in charge of a Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla in Vietnam, then became Naval Advisor to General Creighton Abrams, and Commander of Naval Forces, Vietnam. Zum was the man who ordered the spraying of herbicides in the southern half of South Vietnam. His son was a young officer in the Riverine forces [Brown Water], and he was exposed to herbicides regularly. Zumwalt's son died of cancer in 1988. Zum, who went on to be Chief of Naval Operations, went to work on his retirement, digging into the herbicide issue and there were plenty of Vietnam Veterans dying far too young from all kinds of cancers.

It was Zum who did enough scientific evidence gathering, and who provided much of the impetus to force Congress to pass the Agent Orange Act of 1991. He also exposed the DVA's efforts to "cook" some scientific evidence away from the herbicides, fudging numbers, and results in scientific studies, and applying pressure to scientists and government workers to go along with their efforts. Hence, the potential for criminal liability among those DVA, and Department of Defense personnel, who did the dirty work.

Grudgingly, the DVA gave way and began paying Agent Orange benefits to anyone with a Vietnam Service Medal. But right from the start they began eliminating, first carving out the Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, where we now know herbicides were widely used around base perimeters, on bases to clear vegetation, and along the frontier with Vietnam where we had outposts. Then in 1993 they removed the Air Force Veterans from presumptive eligibility essentially saying "You flew over it." Never mind that mostly it was the Air Force that sprayed it, and that almost all the combat and combat support squadrons rotated through South Vietnam and Thailand during the war, meaning they set feet on the ground. In 2002 they removed the Blue Water Navy, essentially saying the chemical, and/or its effects, stopped dead at the shoreline. As we now know, thanks in large part to the government of Australia, neither the chemical, nor its effects stopped at the beach. Nevertheless, the Blue Water Navy remains largely ineligible, despite increasing evidence that a large part of it spent considerable time in brown water. Those ships, as the DVA is shown the evidence, are granted presumption of exposure for the crews that were on them when the ship was in brown water.

Enter our second hero. Commander Jonathan Haas, USN, Ret. Haas served on the USS Mt. Katmai AE 16, an ammunition ship, in Vietnam. He filed a claim for exposure claiming direct spray while the Katmai was close inshore. The case wound its way from the Regional Office into the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Enter our third hero...or group of heroes. The National Veterans Legal Services Program is a non-profit organization comprised of attorneys and their staffs who work for Veterans, advocate changes in DVA and DoD policy, and generally do great things for a lot of Veterans. They argued the Haas case at the USCAVC and won, overturning the rejection of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Board of Appeals.

The word flashed around the country and many new claims were filed, and others were updated. The DVA appealed the decision of its own court, and won at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC. NVLSP, and Haas, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which declined to hear the case.

But now the cat was out of the bag. US Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War were armed with the knowledge that the Veterans Court saw things differently than the policy wonks and lawyers at the DVA, and with the new knowledge of the Australian government's great work in the scientific study of how Navy ships make fresh water. The study showed that if the seawater was contaminated by dioxin, from runoff, or spillage, or overspray, when processed to make fresh water for the ships' crews, the dioxin would not be eliminated, but in fact, concentrated. The sailors showered in it, drank it in their coffee, ate it in their mashed potatoes, and drank it right from their scuttlebutts [water fountains] on the ships.

Now there are Veterans groups comprised of Blue Water Sailors, and those groups advocate in Congress to get the DVA policy changed, they advocate in the offices of the DVA to change the policy to include the Blue Water Sailors, and they push the media to increase public awareness of the situation. The pressure is on the DVA.

It's been over four decades, this fight.

A VA Press release yesterday announced that since the addition a year ago of the three new diseases [Parkinson's Disease, Hairy [B-cell] Leukemia, and Ischemic Heart Disease] to the list of diseases eligible for treatment under the Agent Orange Act, the DVA has paid out:

2.2 BILLION DOLLARS IN RETROACTIVE BENEFITS FOR THOSE THREE NEW DISEASES!
That had to stick in the craw of those miscreants at the DVA who have been responsible for over four decades of misinformation, malfeasance, criminal negligence, and other illegalities and felonies perpetrated on the American Veterans of the Vietnam War.

There is a new bill in congress which will restore benefits to the Blue Water Navy. There are other efforts underway currently as well. The American Legion, the VFW, the Fleet Reserve Association, and the VVA are all keenly aware of the issue and are actively advocating the restoration of benefits to the Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War in Congress and with the DVA, and the public. The heat is on. And the DVA is now making some whopper sized mistakes.

We have been informed that Our Veteran received word from the DVA Regional Office that two letters were written on his behalf and sent to President Obama. No one seems to know who wrote the letters, exactly, but the suspicion here is that those letters were generated by a certain Regional Office in a large southern state, not by any advocates for Our Veteran, knowing that such letters seriously slow a claim. The claim gets pulled and a slow investigation is made. It can take months, perhaps years before that claim gets put back into the hands of a rater. Additionally, our Veteran received letters from his Regional Office that STILL claim he or a relative worked for the DVA, thus requiring his claim record be sealed. Once sealed, it takes a pretty high-up person to open it, as happened when Our Veteran's Representative's staffers went to the DVA in DC. And they are still denying claims for diseases which Our Veteran never filed a claim.

Needless to say Our Veteran's Representative and his staff, and the attorneys working on Our Veteran's case are asolutely irate.

The DVA keeps making decisions based on their own say-so, that they have no way to back up, and prove their own assertions. These decisions range from the Office of the General Counsel all the way down to the claims raters in the Regional Offices.

For example, they deny Blue Water Navy Veterans presumption based on their assertion that there was no Blue Water exposure. They have not one whit of scientific evidence to back that decision. Nothing! Zip! Zilch! Nada! But the Blue Water Veterans have the Australian Study. And we here have been advocating a Vietnam Veterans Morbidity and Mortality Study for years. And the DVA absolutely KNOWS the outcome of such a study would force them to grant presumption to Blue Water Navy Veterans.

Also, the story told by our Second Veteran, the one who works in a Regional Office, tells of the raters making decisions to deny claims in the face of well grounded claims from the Veterans.

Yes, the miscreants in the DVA hierarchy are feeling the heat. They are making mistakes in their fight to prevent those benefits. And someone, at some point, might just call for an investigation by the Department of Justice into the actions at ALL LEVELS of the DVA regarding these issues.

Four decades of abuse by a government cabinet department is entirely too long for a crime to continue.

Stop the madness now. Restore the Vietnam Service Medal as the qualifying criteria for exposure, and let the last of us die with what little we have left. Stop making those who fought that unpopular war pay for the decision to fight it. We did the honorable thing and went to war for our country. Our country, those who lead it, but do not fight the wars, made the decision to fight. Whoever you are at the DVA, your ill will is egregiously misguided and misdirected. May you rot in Hell for all of eternity for what you and your minions have done to several million honest men and women.

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 Obama 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 © 2005-2011: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Seventh Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous15:33

    Wow! About time that someone on the vets side really lambasted the federal government for their criminal neglect of veterans. Referring to the perimeter use of defoliants/herbicides, Army Field Manual 3-3, Spraying of Herbicides, states that the overspray will wind drift up to 500 meters from the point of spraying by ground spraying methods. That's 5 FOOTBALL FIELDS. Most bases in Thailand would exhibit overlap of the overspray from opposite sides of the base perimeter, meaning that the entire base population would be exposed to the herbicides/defoliants.

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  2. Saltybosun18:02

    Great article. Just proves that the DVA will stoop to the nether regions of Hell to deny us of our earned benefits.

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  3. Anonymous11:48

    Yet, despite being constantly 'exposed', the DVA goes right on with their underhanded way of treating the people they are there to serve. It should be pointed out that this malfeasence seems to vary from one Regional Office to another and one day to the next; i.e. they are not even consistant in their mistreatment. I HAVE to believe that at least some of this is due to direction from higher up in the government; what better way to cut veterans benefits (thus cut costs) then never starting them?

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  4. Anonymous07:30

    I have been waiting for over 10 months to hear about my retro and smc rating. Im already 100% service related disabled,with unemployability, They gave me a
    10% for my ischemic heart, big whop. but they won't tell me when I am to get my retro for peripheral neuropathy, or the loss of my prostate due to cancer.
    I got a whoping $306.00 retro for the heart. For heat attacks back in my 30ts. And I just didn't filed I filed over 10 years ago but was denied until last year when they granted the 100%. Everytime you call the FL va the answer is "Oh they are trying to figure out how much they owe you" If they know and have approved the smc whats the problem with the math.

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