Thursday, May 08, 2008

Options after Black Thursday

We are faced with a number of choices in the aftermath of the stunning loss of the Haas case. First, we must decide whether we want to continue to take action in an effort to further our case or whether we will simply accept a defeat that will come to symbolize the scourge of the American Veteran and the repudiation of the implied contract between the nation's citizenry and its warriors.

We think we know the answer that all will give: This situation must not be allowed to stand.

Thirty-five to forty-five years ago we voluntarily fought in an extemely unpopular war, cut off from home support by a wicked movement that took advantage of our absence, and then on our return, excoriated us for our patriotism. We were pushed, and shoved, screamed at, accused, and spit upon.

Today, it wasn't the citizenry that spit on us, it was the United States government.

We do not remember ever being so angry in our life.

So, what is left for us to do?

Jonathan Haas has the option of appealing today's decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. He'll be looking at a minimum of two years before he even finds out if the Supremes will hear the case.

We can, like the group of Veterans in California did, sue the Department of Veterans Affairs in Federal Court for malfeasance, and criminal negligence. We think a case could be made by taking our clue from Justice Fogel's dissent in today's opinion. Fogel gives clues to a possible path when he says,

"The statute at issue in this case, the Agent Orange Act, Pub. L. No. 102-04, 105 Stat. 11 (1991), was adopted subsequent to and informed by the issues raised in Nehmer. The Agent Orange Act required that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a comprehensive review of “all the available and future evidence on the long-term health effects of exposure” to herbicides."
Neither the National Academy of Sciences, nor its organ the Institute of Medicine has officially reviewed “all the available and future evidence on the long-term health effects of exposure” to herbicides."

These bodies are required to do so and to report their findings to the Department of Veterans Affairs. [See the Institute of Medicine's page on
Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides (Agent Orange)]

First, the Institute of Medicine has never reviewed the Australian study that the DVA so callously dismisses, although there were hints at an effort to do just that by the last committee of the Institute of Medicine, only to have that effort quashed by someone in the Bush Administration. Nor has the DVA asked the Academy or the IOM to conduct their own study.

Second, the DVA has never asked for a morbidity study of Blue Water Naval Veterans, even after a limited study found that Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans had a markedly higher incidence of Chronic Lymphocytic Lymphoma [CLL] than normal, thus generating a policy that grants Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans with CLL Agent Orange benefits!

Third, the DVA has suppressed and ignored the

Zumwalt found evidence of tampering with committees reviewing research:
"This blatant lack of impartiality lends credence to the suspicion that certain individuals may have been unduly influenced in their evaluation of various studies. Furthermore, such bias among Advisory committee members suggests that the Secretary should, in accordance with the Dioxin Standards Act, appoint new personnel to the Advisory Committee."
He also accused the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Administration of conspiring to derail efforts to compensate Veterans for Agent Orange Exposure:

"Agent Orange strongly hints at a discernible pattern, if not outright governmental collaboration, to deny compensation to Vietnam Veterans for disabilities associated with exposure to dioxin. A case in point is the Centers for Disease control ("CDC") . As concerns grew following the first studies of human exposure to Agent Orange, Congress commissioned a large scale epidemiological study to determine the potential health effects for Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Initially, this study was to be conducted by the VA itself.

"When evidence surfaced, however, of the VA’s foot dragging in commencing the study (and initial disavowal of any potential harm from exposure to Agent Orange), Congress transferred the responsibility for the study to the CDC in 1983.

"Unfortunately, as hearings before the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee on July 11, 1989 revealed, the design, implementation and conclusions of the CDC study were so ill conceived as to suggest that political pressures once again interfered with the kind of professional, unbiased review Congress had sought to obtain....

"...Even more disturbing, when the protocol for this "study" and the blood test procedures were examined further, there appeared to be a purposeful effort to sabotage any chance of a meaningful Agent Orange exposure analysis."
[God Bless Admiral Z!]
Indeed, even after the Agent Orange Act of 1991 was instituted the Department of Veterans Affairs started to immediately cull out whole groups of Veterans of the Vietnam War from presumptive eligibility, starting with the Air Force in 1992. The VA maintained that the Air Force flew over the Agent Orange and therefore was not exposed. Never mind the fact that a large portion of Agent Orange spraying was done by Air Force personnel in Air Force aircraft. This effort began during, and continued later in the Clinton Administration when the Department's General Counsel issued the famous "precedent" in 1997 that was ultimately used by the Bush Administration to stop benefits going out to Blue Water Navy Veterans.

Finally, the Department of Veterans Affairs is REQUIRED to accept claims that it cannot disprove by available evidence. Judge Fogel remarks on this in his dissent,

"I agree with the Veterans Court that in the absence of any scientific evidence in the record that supports a “foot on land” requirement, the VA’s position is unreasonable."
In other words, the Department of Veterans Affairs has completely and utterly failed to prove that Agent Orange did not affect Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War, nor did they prove that Agent Orange affected only those who were under it, or that Agent Orange never left the land mass of Vietnam.

There is another option available, also, one that we have been proposing for nearly six months.
The Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act. We have requested that every Blue Water Navy Veteran of the Vietnam War seek out his Congressional Representative, and his Senators, and present them with a copy of the Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act, requesting their sponsorship and support for the proposed bill. This would reverse today's decision if it passed as written. It would express the will of Congress, something Congress has been far too unwilling to confirm one way or the other for many years. This is an election year. When you visit your elected officials, take friends, and members of the press with you.

It will take all of us to accomplish this. Each and every one of us needs to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing and rein in the Administration and their lackeys at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

One other option, that we have advocated for a long time: MARCH! March on Washington, on the Capitol, and on the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters.

We don't know about the rest of you, but we feel dishonored by the actions of our government. It is as if to say, "You did nothing. You were not there. You deserve nothing."

We want justice! We want the government of this country to recognize that we WERE there, we fought, and some of us died while there. And we are now suffering and dying from the actions of our own government while we were there.


"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

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous15:28

    For SHAME,For SHAME FOR SHAME Just As Expected From The Gov. After All Pres. Bush & His Click That Run The VA Are One In The Same--They Lie, Cheat And Get The BONUS For The GREAT Job They Have Done For The Veterans Claims. Keep The Fight ALIVE Never Give Up Till The Last One Of Us Vietnam Veterans Die <> Support Our Troops -----
    Blue/Brown Water Nam Vet With Boots On Ground & No MERCY For Those Trying To Decieve Us Nam Vets Of Our Earned Benefits.