Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Military Order of the Purple Heart looking for new members

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, an association of persons who have been wounded in combat, is offering a membership package that is hard to beat. Until June 30th, 2008, a Life Membership can be had for $50.

The MOPH is celebrating its 75th Anniversary.

For those persons in Pennsylvania, a Life Membership for qualifying members can be obtained absolutely free until the end of this month, April 30, 2008!

For those of you who qualify for membership in this fine organization, please contact them ASAP!

Here is the main link to the MOPH home page
[
click here].

Here is a direct link to their membership page [
click here].

Please don't wait. This is a wonderful way to help a great organization to celebrate 75 years of service to its members, and to the country.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's next and a strategy

Based on our hit counter in the past few days there is growing interest in the situation with the VA's treatment of the Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War. We think that the following is the likely course that the VA will follow in the coming weeks as a result of their M21-1 manual recission.

Essentially, what they are saying is they are going to change the 38 CFR reference to exclude us. First though, sometime in May they will put their change out for comment, just like the manual rescission that they put out. Then they'll make another response, like this one, and go ahead and exclude us from the benefits.

This of course is all contingent on the outcome of the Haas case. At this point they are acting as though they expect to win the Haas case.

We think otherwise. Still, they may, depending on what the Haas decision is, go right ahead and change the 38 CFR reference anyway. Indeed, I would not put it past the VA to make the change regardless of what the Haas decision is.

We all ABSOLUTELY MUST be on our guard against this by being pro-active.

The one single solution that would resolve the issue once and for all would be to have Congress enact the
Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act.

How do we accomplish this? Simple: direct, face-to-face contact with your Congressional Representative, and your Senators.

Find other Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans if you can, and make an appointment to go see your Congressional Representative and DEMAND he get on board with a FAST TRACK passage of the
Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act, and personally hand them a copy. Read it with them. Explain that the original intent of Congress in the 1991 Agent Orange Act was to include the Blue Water Navy Veterans as they specifically wrote "service in the waters off shore." Had it not been their intent they would NOT have included that phrase. DRIVE THAT POINT HOME. Remind your representative that this is a big election year, and even though your Representative may not be running for re-election, his Party has much at stake in November. We want the law enacted before the Conventions.

Then go repeat the process with your Senator.

DO NOT deal with staffers, deal with the politicians directly, face-to-face. The more Veterans that go with you [and don't forget to take your wives along!] the more weight your visit will carry.

To access the
Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act click here. Feel free to print it out or copy and paste it. Make sure you take several copies along. It should fit on one page.

We need someone in Congress to sponsor it. Ask your politician to do so.

We will have to hit nearly every member of Congress to accomplish this. They need to know there is political power behind the effort.

If you can, take a member of the press/media along. That will also have an effect. If you can't get one to go along, arrange to meet with them after you leave your Congressional Representative/Senator, and make sure you let your Rep/Senator know where you are going after leaving him, and why you are seeing the press.

Don't let these people snow you with "I'll look into it." Don't leave their office without a commitment.

Above all, be polite, but firm. Nothing turns a politician off than someone leaning into him red-faced, swearing, and demanding. If you lose your temper, you've lost your battle.

Finally, don't make any threats beyond the political ones mentioned above.

We need political pressure, and political friends, not political enemies.

Go forth, be bold, be assertive, and accomplish great things.

This is as great a battle as any you fought in Vietnam.

Let's put this puppy to rest once and for all.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The arrival of expected bad news

Apparently the Department of Veterans Affairs intends to keep up their fight against the Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War. Today the VA released its response to the public comments made during their proposed M21-1 Manual Recission public comment period.

Here is the text of that response:

------------------------------------------

VA Adjudication Procedures Manual, M21-1; Rescission of Manual M21-1 Provisions Related to Exposure to Herbicides Based on Receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION:
Notice.

------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rescinds provisions of its Adjudication Procedures Manual, M21-1 (Manual M21-1) that were found by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) not to have been properly rescinded.

DATES: This rescission is effective April 15, 2008.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On November 27, 2007, we proposed to rescind certain provisions of our Manual M21-1. 72 FR 66218. The notice was necessitated by the opinion rendered by the Veterans Court in Haas v. Nicholson, 20 Vet. App. 257 (2006). Although VA's appeal of that decision has been submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit), that court has not yet issued a decision in the case. The comment period has ended, and we now rescind the provisions. We received more than 75 comments, most of which were very similar and can be addressed in three categories: (1) Citation to scientific evidence, in particular a 2002 study performed for Australia's Queensland Health Scientific Services by their National Research Center for Environmental Toxicology, titled, Examination of the Potential Exposure of Royal Australian Navy Personnel to Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans Via Drinking Water (the Australian study); (2) personal stories about the commenters' experiences during service and/or their current illnesses; and, (3) arguments presented in connection with the Haas litigation. We will address these three categories of comments, and then address a few additional comments that do not fit within these categories.

Comments Based on Scientific Articles

Several commenters suggested that rescission of the Manual M21-1 is inconsistent with scientific articles purportedly showing that herbicide exposure in offshore waters could have occurred by virtue of wind drift or consumption of drinking water distilled from estuarine waters. We make no change based on these comments for the reasons explained below. Several commenters cited the Australian study as proof that American military personnel on ships off the coast of Vietnam were exposed to herbicides in drinking water. The Australian study assumed that ocean water near estuarine sources could contain dioxin if dioxin had been used over adjacent land. It then noted that Australian Navy boats distilled water, obtained primarily from locations near such estuarine sources, to use as drinking water. Based on these factual predicates, the study found that the distillation process used by those boats did not remove dioxin when dioxin was added to salt water and the distillation process was performed in a laboratory, but, instead, the distillation concentrated the dioxin level in the water. The study was not peer reviewed or published and, to our knowledge, has never been cited in any subsequent reputable study concerning herbicide exposure.

Even assuming that U.S. Navy ships used a distillation process to obtain drinking water from the ocean (VA has been unable to obtain official confirmation of this from the Department of Defense), VA's scientific experts have noted many problems with this study that caution against placing significant reliance on the study. In particular, the authors of the Australian study themselves noted that there was substantial uncertainty in their assumptions regarding the concentration of dioxin that may have been present in estuarine waters during the Vietnam War. Further, although distillation concentrated the dioxin level in the water, the concentrating effect was shown to depend upon the amount of sediment in the water, such that a large sediment level, consistent with estuarine waters, could significantly reduce the concentrating effect. Moreover, even with the concentrating effect found in the Australian study, the levels of exposure estimated in this study are not at all comparable to the exposures experienced by veterans who served on land where herbicides were applied.

This is true even if we were to assume that a person drank only such distilled water and did so for an extended tour.

A few commenters cited other studies that discuss generally the nature of air and water pollution, the manner in which certain pesticides can be borne by the wind, and the effect of water-borne pesticides on marine life. None of these studies bears significantly on the specific question whether herbicides used, and as administered, by the U.S. military during the Vietnam Era could have been blown by the wind into the ocean, or into inland waters that then carried the chemical into the ocean, to reach a boat offshore and result in any significant risk of herbicide exposure. Similarly, the studies do not suggest that if those herbicides could have been so transported, they could then be transmitted through a distillation process (assuming that one was used by U.S. ships) into drinking water, and then consumed by military personnel in any measurable quantity. One study merely indicated that Agent Orange is carcinogenic, a fact that VA does not dispute.

Further, even if the studies show that herbicide exposure in offshore waters is possible in some circumstances, they do not provide a basis for maintaining a provision construed by the Veterans Court to impose a broad presumption of herbicide exposure based on receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal (VSM). The purpose of the presumption of herbicide exposure is to eliminate the need for case-by-case showings of exposure where there is a reasonable basis for presuming the fact.

The possibility of exposure in certain circumstances of offshore service does not, in our view, establish a basis for presuming exposure in all circumstances involving offshore service or receipt of the VSM. In our view, the cited studies are of minimal relevance to the instant action for the additional reason that the M21-1 provisions were not intended to establish a substantive rule, but to implement the congressional intent underlying the statutory presumption of herbicide exposure in 38 U.S.C. 1116(f). The commenters do not suggest that Congress relied upon the cited studies in enacting Sec. 1116(f), but appear only to argue that the cited studies would independently support a presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served offshore.

It is VA's policy not to issue substantive rules through its M21-1 manual or other internal documents, but through notice-and-comment rule making and subsequent codification in the Code of Federal Regulations. Because the Veterans Court's conclusion that the M21-1 provisions established a substantive rule is inconsistent with VA's intent in issuing the M21-1 provision, VA is rescinding the M21-1 provisions. As stated in the notice of proposed rule making, VA will shortly issue a proposed revision to its governing regulation, 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii), to clarify our interpretation of 38 U.S.C. 1116(f). The issue of whether and to what extent the cited studies bear upon the congressional intent underlying Sec. 1116(f) is most appropriately dealt with in the context of that rulemaking. Additionally, we note that many VSM recipients did not even serve on ships off the shore of Vietnam. The VSM was awarded to all members of the Armed Forces who served between July 3, 1965, and March 28, 1973, either: (1) in Vietnam and contiguous waters and airspace thereover; or (2) in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, or airspace thereover, in direct support of operations in Vietnam. See Army Reg. 600-8-22, para. 2-13.). Clearly, the studies cited by commenters would not affect our decision as to veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, or in airspace far above the jungles of Vietnam. If commenters relying on these studies believe the studies are relevant to the question whether Vietnam service should be extended to the waters off the shore of Vietnam, we direct readers to the revision of 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii), which we expect will be proposed before May 2008, and which will directly address the requirement of service on land in Vietnam. For the foregoing reasons, the Australian study and the other studies cited by commenters do not cause us to alter our decision to rescind the Manual M21-1 provisions. Similar to the above category of comments, several commenters argued that there is no scientific basis for VA to take the position that veterans who served on ships were not exposed to herbicides during that service. These comments misunderstand the nature of VA's action. This action would not result in a finding or presumption that veterans who served on ships were not exposed to herbicides; it would merely clarify that such veterans are not automatically presumed to have been exposed and that the issue of exposure must be resolved on a case-by- case basis to the same extent as most other factualissues involved in claims for VA benefits.

Comments Based on Personal Experience

The second group of comments received related the personal experiences of veterans who suffer from cancer and other ailments that can be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. While we are sympathetic to the needs of these veterans, Congress has been quite clear that VA cannot presume exposure to herbicides simply because a veteran has a disease linked to exposure to herbicides. Again, section 1116(f) states that a veteran with such a disease is presumed exposed only if he ``served in the Republic of Vietnam.'' To the extent that these commenters seek relief in their own individual cases, these comments are beyond the scope of this notice. The issue presented here is whether VA should rescind a Manual M21-1 provision that the Veterans Court misinterpreted as requiring VA to presume exposure for any veteran who received the VSM.

Comments Related to Haas Litigation

The third category of comments received includes comments presenting the same statutory-interpretation arguments that have been presented to the Federal Circuit in the Haas litigation. These comments assert that the language of 38 U.S.C. 1116 plainly requires that offshore service be considered service ``in the Republic of Vietnam'' for purposes of that statute. We do not agree. In its Haas opinion, the Veterans Court held that neither the languae nor the legislative history of Sec. 1116 reflects a clear intent to treat offshore service as service ``in the Republic of Vietnam.'' Haas, 20 Vet. App. at 264-68. We therefore make no change based on these comments, but we note that this issue remains pending before the Federal Circuit.

Additionally, some commenters suggested that VA, by this action, was usurping the power of the courts. We do not agree. VA has the legal right to engage in rulemaking and the legal obligation to interpret title 38, United States Code. As the Federal Circuit has held, the fact that a court has interpreted VA's regulations does not bar VA from later revising those regulations. See National Organization of Veterans' Advocates v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 260 F.3d 1365, 1373-74 (Fed. Cir. 2001). This action in no way usurps the court's authority to review our actions in this regard.

Other Comments

In addition to the categories of comments addressed above, we received the following specific comments. First, one commenter asked why the proposed rescission did not address ``any action [VA] may contemplate to sever service connection'' granted based upon the Manual M21-1 provisions. We have no plans to undertake such action. The same commenter asked whether a claimant who had been presumed exposed to herbicides based on the Manual M21-1 provision would now, post-rescission, not be presumed exposed if he filed a claim based on a new disease. VA has never interpreted the Manual M21-1 provision to require a presumption of service connection for every veteran who received the VSM. (In fact, this is precisely why VA denied Mr. Haas' claim.) That interpretation was made by the Veterans Court, not by VA. Therefore, if a veteran had been presumed exposed to herbicides before this rescission, it is because the evidence in his file, viewed as a whole, supported applying the presumption in the particular case. The same commenter added that if VA believes that other evidence besides the award of the VSM is relevant to a finding of service in Vietnam, then VA should identify such evidence. This comment is beyond the scope of this rescission, which simply removes from the Manual M21-1 a provision that required VA to consider the VSM in connection with a claim for a disability allegedly caused by herbicide exposure. In this regard, the commenter may wish to review and comment on our revision of 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii).

Another commenter stated that he ``can understand why blue water sailors [i.e., sailors who served off the coast of Vietnam] would be more closely scrutinized, but not automatically deemed ineligible.'' Removal of the Manual M21-1 provisions would not render blue water sailors ineligible for benefits based on herbicide exposure. Such veterans could establish service connection for herbicide-related conditions by submission of evidence establishing exposure to herbicides during service, just as they always could. If a veteran is eligible for that presumption, then, as a result, VA will not further scrutinize that veteran's claim on the issue of exposure.

We are rescinding this misinterpreted Manual M21-1 provision precisely because, like the commenter, VA believes that blue water veterans' claims must be subjected to greater scrutiny than claims by veterans who served on land. Blue water veterans who received the VSM can directly establish the fact of their exposure with evidence of contact with herbicides or evidence that they actually served on land. Several comments related to the exposure of veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia and/or Laos. Persons who received the VSM could have served in these regions. However, because we have no confirmed evidence of the extent of the possible exposure of such persons to herbicides, and no statutory mandate to consider such persons to have been exposed, we make no change to our decision based on these comments.

Based on the foregoing, VA rescinds the following manual provisions describing service in Vietnam for the purposes of the presumption of exposure to herbicides: M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.08(k)(1)-(2) (November 8, 1991); M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 23 (October 6, 1993); M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 41 (July 12, 1995); M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 76 (June 1, 1999); M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(e)(1)-(2), change 88 (February 27, 2002).

Approved: April 8, 2008.
Gordon H. Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
[FR Doc. E8-7912 Filed 4-14-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8320-01-P

------------------------------------------

Frankly, this response is disingenuous at best and clearly dishonest. One of the things the VA does in this response is play with the timeline.
"The commenters do not suggest that Congress relied upon the cited studies in enacting Sec. 1116(f), but appear only to argue that the cited studies would independently support a presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served offshore."
How could the Congress rely on those studies? They were enacting Section 11116(f) a decade before the studies were done! This is simply more of the DVA's disingenuous and outright dishonest blather.

Another is to demean the results of scientific studies, and to ignore their own 11 year policy of granting the benefits to those with the VSM.

In other words, the DVA is continuing to deny what their own court has told them, and what, hopefully, the U.S. Court of Appeals for The Federal Circuit will tell them: that they are wrong in their interpretaion of Congressional intent, that the Congress specifically included those "...who served in offshore waters...." It is the one thing the DVA is basing its lies upon that they cannot escape. If they were planning on not including the Blue Water Navy, they never would have included the "...service in offshore waters..." phrase at all!

For those of you who are curious, here is the entire paragraph of 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii):

(iii) A veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent, unless there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service. The last date on which such a veteran shall be presumed to have been exposed to an herbicide agent shall be the last date on which he or she served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975. ``Service in the Republic of Vietnam'' includes service in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.
If the intent had been to link the phrases "...service in offshore water...", and "...if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.", then the conjunction used would have be "or", not "and".

Frankly, the VA has much to answer for, and most especially for twisting the truth and downright lying to the public:

Even assuming that U.S. Navy ships used a distillation process to obtain drinking water from the ocean (VA has been unable to obtain official confirmation of this from the Department of Defense), VA's scientific experts have noted many problems with this study that caution against placing significant reliance on the study.
The VA knows all too well what the US Navy used during Vietnam amd the direct linkage to the Australian Navy. Three of the Royal Australian Navy Destroyers on which Australian Veterans who are now receiveing Agent Orange related benefits serves were sold to the Aussies while under construction in the US as Charles Francis Adams Class destroyers! They have this information. Most of the ships were constructed between the End of WW II and the end of the Vietnam War. Most of them had identical or similar water distillation systems.

As to the scientific experts, the Institute of Medicine has been trying to get the study in front of the VA for years, but the DVA has been stonewalling that effort.

They will go to any lengths to deny us benefits.

Unfortunately, the longer we wait for a decision in Haas, the more men die from these insidious dioxin related diseases, which suits the DVA just fine as those will be claims they won't have to deal with.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Greater love hath no man..."

There is no work so quoted in human history as the Bible. We find in the New Testament of the Bible, in the 15th Chapter of the Gospel According to Saint John, the 13th verse, the following words:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
On 29 September 2006, in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, MA2 Michael A. Mansoor, a United States Navy Seal did just that.

Today he was honored in Washington with a posthumous presentation of the Medal of Honor by President Bush at a White House ceremony.

Here is an official account of what Mansoor did. It is not the Medal of Honor Citation, but an action account from the website the United States Navy has put up to honor Michael A. Monsoor, MA2, USN [SEAL]. Attention on Deck! Hand Salute!

Summary of Action
Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor
For actions on Sept. 29, 2006

Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor, United States Navy, distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Combat Advisor and Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 29 September 2006. He displayed great personal courage and exceptional bravery while conducting operations in enemy held territory at Ar Ramadi Iraq.

During Operation Kentucky Jumper, a combined Coalition battalion clearance and isolation operation in southern Ar Ramadi, he served as automatic weapons gunner in a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army (IA) sniper overwatch element positioned on a residential rooftop in a violent sector and historical stronghold for insurgents. In the morning, his team observed four enemy fighters armed with AK-47s reconnoitering from roads in the sector to conduct follow-on attacks. SEAL snipers from his roof engaged two of them which resulted in one enemy wounded in action and one enemy killed in action. A mutually supporting SEAL/IA position also killed an enemy fighter during the morning hours. After the engagements, the local populace blocked off the roads in the area with rocks to keep civilians away and to warn insurgents of the presence of his Coalition sniper element. Additionally, a nearby mosque called insurgents to arms to fight Coalition Forces.

In the early afternoon, enemy fighters attacked his position with automatic weapons fire from a moving vehicle. The SEALs fired back and stood their ground. Shortly thereafter, an enemy fighter shot a rocket-propelled grenade at his building. Though well-acquainted with enemy tactics in Ar Ramadi, and keenly aware that the enemy would continue to attack, the SEALs remained on the battlefield in order to carry out the mission of guarding the western flank of the main effort.

Due to expected enemy action, the officer in charge repositioned him with his automatic heavy machine gun in the direction of the enemy’s most likely avenue of approach. He placed him in a small, confined sniper hide-sight between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, which allowed the three SEALs maximum coverage of the area. He was located closest to the egress route out of the sniper hide-sight watching for enemy activity through a tactical periscope over the parapet wall. While vigilantly watching for enemy activity, an enemy fighter hurled a hand grenade onto the roof from an unseen location. The grenade hit him in the chest and bounced onto the deck. He immediately leapt to his feet and yelled “grenade” to alert his teammates of impending danger, but they could not evacuate the sniper hide-sight in time to escape harm. Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, he threw himself onto the grenade, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying in close proximity. The grenade detonated as he came down on top of it, mortally wounding him.

Petty Officer Monsoor’s actions could not have been more selfless or clearly intentional. Of the three SEALs on that rooftop corner, he had the only avenue of escape away from the blast, and if he had so chosen, he could have easily escaped. Instead, Monsoor chose to protect his comrades by the sacrifice of his own life. By his courageous and selfless actions, he saved the lives of his two fellow SEALs and he is the most deserving of the special recognition afforded by awarding the Medal of Honor.
Two!

Petty Officer Monsoor is a true shipmate in every sense of the word.

Please visit the official Navy website tribute to
MA2 Michael A. Monsoor, USN.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

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)

-------------------------------------------

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.