Friday, November 23, 2012

Possible cure for PTSD

 First, this is not an advertisement.  Nor is it a come-on for some investment scheme.  As far as we can tell this is a fully legitimate discovery.  The results are stunning, and the recovery occurs within minutes of the injection.  In some few cases it requires a second injection, but for the most part it is once and done. 

We came across this article on a cure for PTSD and think it worthy of checking out if you suffer from such problems.   We do not know if this is a cure for only one type of PTSD [it apparently does not work in all cases, but has shown an 80% effective rate], nor do we know if it is a permanent cure or not, since it is so new.  Even if it is only a temporary cure, the opportunity to get relief cannot be passed up, and perhaps a later injection would have the same success, and maybe for a longer period of time.  We have no idea if this is used in conjunction with psychological counseling, or other medications but think that if it did, the article would mention it. 

Please visit this article - Doctor: Injection can 'cure' PTSD in Veterans.

If you or a loved one suffers from this horrible injury please get in touch with this doctor.  There really is no need for you and those around you to suffer any longer.   

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Every Veteran Should Know


Most of the Veterans around today are of the Korean War, Vietnam War and Gulf war, and in the past 10 to 11 years, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  Those of past wars and those who served in peace time need to explain to their sons, daughters, grand kids and maybe for some great grand kids, who may be serving their Country.  How important it is to maintain records.

Upon discharge from any branch of the Armed Forces, the service member receives a DD-214, release of service discharge: a very important document.  Sometimes on that discharge document it might state medals earned and duty station assignments.  It is not always the case.  Often times the person typing up the DD-214 does not go through the Veteran’s service record to record medals and duty stations. 

Upon discharge from any branch of service along with receiving a DD-214, they should ask for copies of their medical records, record of medals earned and duty stations and or commands served under.  Also they should keep copies of all transfer orders and travel orders.  These are important documents. 

You may ask why keep those documents?  It can be very likely they may be needed at some point in time years after discharge from military service. 

An old injury creeps up on you that might be service connected or an illness that could be service connected.  So you submit a VA claim.  The VA asks for evidence of your service that may have caused an injury or illness.  They will want to know what medals you earned, especially combat medals.  They will want you to prove what duty stations and or commands you were attached to.  Injury’s that may be service connect you have to prove with your medical records as well as medical records from a health care provider.  Illnesses that may be service connected and prove where you were that could attest to a location. 

If you don’t have these records or did have them and threw them away or misplaced them, good luck.  It is a nightmare to get those records of service; that holds true to all branches of service.  I could take mountains of paperwork on your part to find what you need as evidence for a VA claim.  It could take several months even a year or more to find the documents needed.  Any documents relative to the above should be kept in a safe place.  A family member, wife, child, father, mother, etc. should now where you keep those documents for any event.  By having these documents, it will be so much easier to submit a VA claim if and when needed for disability.  The VA will not search for these documents for you, you are on your own to present them. 

I am a Vietnam War Veteran and I had saved all of my service documents over my 22 years of service.  When I came down with Agent Orange exposure, those documents I saved were like gold.  I had everything the VA asked for and then some.  It only took me a year to be rated disabled.  On the other hand, if I did not have those documents, it conceivably could have taken several years to be rated disabled, that is if I were able to find what was needed by the VA. 

Another important thing a Veteran upon discharge should do is register with the VA to be in the system.  This can be done by a phone call or on-line to get a form of registration and sending it in with a copy of your DD-214.  Also all documents you collect must show your SS#, just write it on the top of each page.  There is the possibility you may one day need to submit a VA claim.  Safe guard your service documents, they may one day be important to you.  Don’t cause yourself a nightmare later in life when you find you need help.

This advice is given by:  John J. Bury, US Navy, retired, Vietnam War Veteran and author for the COVVHA.

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Movement in the Senate


Senate Bill 3457, the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2007 is a bill that proposes almost a billion dollars to be spent hiring and training returning Veterans for positions as police, firemen, first responders, and so on.  We support this bill as a good thing, and sensible, too. 

A short while ago Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011 was rolled into S.3457 as an amendment.  Since the bill did not appear to be going anywhere it was likely a good idea for the Senator from New York to offer the language of S.1629 as an amendment to the Veterans Job Corps Act. 

To the best of our understanding, the Senate Democrats tried to get S.3457 through early last week by moving for cloture, which ends debate and sets the bill for a vote. Because of the overall cost of this bill being well over a billion dollars, many Senators argued against cloture.  They wanted the option to debate the amendments and perhaps add to them, change them or remove them.  Eventually, the cloture motion was withdrawn by Senator Reid, and the bill was returned to the calendar [a good thing, meaning it will be considered again].  While there was some partisanship involved in the cloture debate, many Republicans crossed the aisle to support the cloture motion.

That said, the Senate and the House will go into recess next week to go home for the election.

Things are up in the air after that.

We expect that if the amendment survives further debate on the bill, and the bill is enacted, then it will likely go to the house for debate and reconciliation [making the language the same in both houses by a joint conference committee], and passage sometime after the election.

While there is no targeted Senate adjournment date for this session of Congress, the House lists December 14th as their date for adjournment.  Figure on that date, or something near that date, being our deadline.

After that, if not enacted, we are back to ground zero.

The alternate bill, Bob Filner's HR 812, which is the third incarnation in five years of the same bill, does not appear to do anything for the Blue Water Navy, since it does not have anything in its language that indicates a change in the definition of service in Vietnam, but DOES add language to make those who served on Guam and Okinawa, and Johnston Island, to be eligible for benefits. We have refused to support this bill since it does not move our specific cause forward.

What can you do?  You can go see your Senators and Representative at their local offices in your state starting October 8 and grab them by the lapels and give them a lesson in history and medicine, and tell them they need to stop leaving us behind.  Tell them to drop the Territorial Waters part and go to the Vietnam Service Medal as the qualifier for presumptive exposure eligibility.  This gets Blue Water Navy and Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans finally eligible.  Make it clear to them this will not make any difference in cost because of administrative savings in the VA's claims process.  Territorial Waters will require long claims processes, while using the VSM will be a short process, easily handled by the claims people.  It will actually reduce the long term backlog in the VA’s claims processing system!

That is what you can do.  This is the last gasp.  Whatever you have left, put it into an effort to do the above.

Good luck and good hunting.  Turn to!

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

VA Proposing PN change and no additions to AO List

Today the VA announced a proposed change to its policy on Peripheral Neuropathy and the decision not to add any new conditions or diseases based on the last IoM report [Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2010]. Here is the information on Peripheral Neuropathy:
"VA proposes to remove the current requirement that acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy appear “within weeks or months” after exposure and remove the requirement that the condition resolve within two years of the date of onset in order for the presumption to apply. For purposes of consistency, VA further proposes to replace the terms “acute and subacute” with “early-onset” in 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(ii) requiring peripheral neuropathy to become manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more within one year after the last date of herbicide exposure in order to be subject to presumptive service connection under 38 CFR 3.309(e). This amendment would clarify that presumptive service connection for early-onset peripheral neuropathy will not be denied solely because the peripheral neuropathy persisted for more than two years after the date of last herbicide exposure. However, this amendment would not change the current requirement that peripheral neuropathy must have become manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more within one year after the date of last exposure in order to qualify for the presumption of service connection. In Update 2010, the NAS found that evidence did not indicate an association between herbicide exposure and delayed-onset peripheral neuropathy, which NAS defined as peripheral neuropathy having its onset more than one year after exposure.
and....
Additionally, we propose to revise 38 CFR 3.816(b)(2), the regulation governing retroactive awards for certain diseases associated with herbicide exposure as required by court orders in the class action litigation in the case of Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently § 3.816(b)(2) states that the Nehmer court orders apply to presumptions established before October 1, 2002, and lists the diseases covered by those presumptions, including “acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy.” Rather than revising this list, we propose to remove the list of conditions and the October 1, 2002, date and insert language clarifying that the Nehmer court orders apply to the presumptions listed in § 3.309(e). This change is necessary because the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Nehmer found the date restriction and the corresponding listing of presumptive conditions based on herbicide exposure found at § 3.816(b)(2) to be invalid as it is not inclusive of all conditions the Secretary has determined to be presumptively service connected based on herbicide exposure under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Therefore, VA proposes to remove paragraphs (b)(2)(i)-(ix) and the phrase “before October 1, 2002” and to add a reference to § 3.309(e) that reflects the inclusive listing in the introduction to paragraph (b)(2). The above information can be reviewed for comment at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/08/10/2012-19635/determinations-concerning-illnesses-discussed-in-national-academy-of-sciences-report-veterans-and#p-34
No great change here. Additionally, the VA declined to add any new diseases or conditions to the list of Agent Orange Diseases. Here are the important sections.
Limited or Suggestive Evidence of an Association NAS has defined this category of association to mean that the “evidence suggests an association between exposure to herbicides and the outcome, but a firm conclusion is limited because chance, bias, and confounding could not be ruled out with confidence.” Hypertension VA has reviewed this additional information in relation to the information in prior NAS reports analyzing studies concerning hypertension. Based on this review, the Secretary has determined that the available evidence presented in Update 2010 is not sufficient to establish a new presumption of service connection for hypertension in veterans exposed to herbicides. As noted in VA's evaluation of prior NAS reports, 75 FR 32540 (Jun. 8, 2010), the evidence overall includes a wide variety of results. While some veteran studies have reported increased incidence of hypertension, others have found no increase. Similarly, numerous environmental and occupational studies have found no significant increased risk of hypertension. The consistently negative findings of occupational studies are of interest because, at least in studies of chemical-production workers, the magnitude and duration of exposures in occupational studies generally would be greater than in Vietnam veteran studies. Further, as noted above, several of the studies that provide evidence of an increased risk are limited by the failure to control for significant confounders or by other methodological concerns. Accordingly, the Secretary has determined that the available evidence does not at this time establish a positive association between herbicide exposure and hypertension that would warrant a presumption of service connection.
Now we take this to rule out Hypertension by itself. However, as a secondary to Diabetes Mellitus Type II, or Ischemic Heart Disease, it still would go into an approved claim’s mix for rating percentage of disability.
Inadequate or Insufficient Evidence To Determine an Association Based on the analysis in Update 2010, the Secretary has determined that the available studies generally do not provide credible evidence of an association between exposure to an herbicide agent and an increased risk of hearing loss, eye problems, or bone conditions. The Secretary therefore finds that a positive association does not currently exist between herbicide exposure and those conditions and that no presumption of service connection is warranted for those conditions at this time.
Limited or Suggestive Evidence of No Association NAS has previously concluded that there is limited or suggestive evidence of no association between paternal herbicide exposure and spontaneous abortion. In Update 2010, NAS identified no new studies relevant to that health outcome. Accordingly, the Secretary has determined that there is no positive association between paternal herbicide exposure and spontaneous abortion.
Detailed information on NAS' findings may be found at http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Veterans-and-Agent-Orange-Update-2010.aspx. After selecting the link titled: “Read Report Online for Free,” report findings, organized by category, may be found under the heading, “Table of Contents.”
To read the entire posting and/or make a comment go to this website: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/08/10/2012-19634/disease-associated-with-exposure-to-certain-herbicide-agents-peripheral-neuropathy#h-16
Again, no real surprises here. Nothing much changes except for Peripheral Neuropathy.

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Update on Congressional and IOM Efforts



Okay, enough is enough.  So the Marines, who seem to always get what they want, get their Camp Lejeune contamination benefits.  And the Vietnamese get millions of dollars to cleanup around Danang. 

Yes, both are certainly and most assuredly well deserved.  So indeed are the pending benefits for the Blue Water Navy. 

Just to put something into perspective, there are some other things at play here regarding the Danang cleanup. 

A few years ago a very senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee spoke to a few of us in a hallway after a joint House-Senate VA hearing.  His comments baffled us at the time.  He said, “Danang!  We ought to take that back!” 

The Chinese and the Philippines have laid claim to two small island groups off Vietnam, the Paracel Islands, and the Spratley Islands.  In fact, the Vietnamese Navy, built mostly of Russian ships, tangled with the People’s Republic of China Navy twice over those islands, back 25-35 years ago.  Each side won one confrontation. 

What’s the big deal about those Islands? 

Oil and Natural Gas.  Both island groups have rather large fields of gas and oil under them. 

Enter the Russians.  They, too, are seeking a future supply of gas and oil.  So they are seeking a naval and air base in Vietnam.  Likely they are after Cam Ranh Bay.   

So, when that Senator said “Danang!  We ought to take that back!”, we had no clue then what he was talking about, but it certainly becomes evident now why we are cleaning up Danang.  It is good will building in hopes of gaining access to the Naval and Air facilities there after they are cleaned up.  It would be an economic boon to Vietnam.  It would provide us with a partner in the area, that we lost after the Philippines kicked us out.  It would allow us a base of operations in the South China Sea, and to be able to counter any threat from the Chinese [or the Russians?].

Just a word of caution to future US Military who may visit the Danang area…don’t eat local, especially the seafood, and don’t drink the water. 

On the other hand, we have visited several Senate offices, and several House offices, and made some inroads into co-sponsorship in the House.  We still await the very cautious Senators' responses to visits as far back as mid-June. 

We are pressing on in both houses. 

In late June we had the distinct honor to make a presentation to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides (Ninth Biennial Update), and asked them to gain approval and find the funding for a proposed Mortality and Morbidity Study Among Vietnam and Vietnam Era Veterans.  The study would provide an expansive body of data about all who served during that time, and a control group of men and women of the same age that did not serve.  It is divided by where you served, and asks simply, what diseases have you been diagnosed with, and is not limited to the current list of Agent Orange diseases.  The Membership of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War have kindly offered most of them as participants in the study, should it come about.  We have had no feedback on it, but it seemed to be received with interest. If they do take on the study, and it comes out the way we suspect it will, Congress will not like it because it will mean enormous increases in the VA budget, and the VA will simply not like it either, having spent the past 45 years fighting tooth and nail to deny those benefits to all. 

Stay tuned.  Congress is in recess, and September-October will be hectic with the approach of the election. 

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Apologies to all - we were hacked

We apologize to all of our reader who tried to access our blog recently, only to be redirected to a spam page.  We have found the offending code and deleted it, and will take steps to ensure it does not happen again.  


Stay with us, as things are happening later this week. 

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Memoriam: billwill

His user name was billwill, but he was much more than that. He was a charter member of VASVW, and a Blue Water Navy Veteran of the Vietnam War. The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War mourns the passing of Willard Hughes. Willard was a Tin Can sailor, valiantly serving off Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 aboard the USS Newman K. Perry DD 883. He will be missed.

 In Psalm 107, at verse 23, we read:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I, Scene ii, we read this song, sung by the character Ariel, a spirit rescued by the Magician Prospero and therefore bound to his bidding:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell
And so we bid farewell to Sailor Willard Hughes, Veteran, now embarked on his Eternal Voyage to his desired haven.

Ding-dong. Hark! I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

Ship’s Company: Attention on Deck!

Hand Salute!

Two!

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Wives

[Note: This is a re-posted and updated entry that needs to be put up over and over to remind folks of the role played by the wives in all of this struggle.]

They write. They call. They fax. They file form after form. They drive wherever they need to go in order to document, present, appeal, or argue their case. And they are frequently shut out.

No sailor wants to make that last voyage without providing for his widow, and/or his family. One of the ways to do so is to file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Unfortunately, and apparently illegally, the DVA stopped approving claims in 2002 for Navy Veterans who served in the “off shore waters of Vietnam”.
…John was hospitalized three nights ago with what has been diagnosed as pneumonia resulting from multiple myeloma. The doctors aren’t holding out much hope. What can I do? We’re out of money. John’s claim was denied because he did not set foot on the ground…
In many cases, those sailors with pending claims die before their claims are decided. Their claims die with them. Their widows get…absolutely nothing.

In 2002, the DVA modified their procedural manual to stipulate that a veteran filing for Agent Orange Presumptive benefits must provide proof that he actually set foot on the ground in the Republic of Vietnam. The DVA made this change after issuing a “precedential opinion” in 1997 from their own office of General Council. They did all of this on their own, without any instigation from Congress, or the various Veterans Service Organizations. But they also made the manual change without offering it up for public comment first.

…My husband served three tours on Destroyers off the coast of Vietnam between 1965 and 1971. He never set foot on the ground there. In 1998 Bob was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, and a year later with cancer of the prostate. They operated, and he tested clear of the cancer for a while, but in 2005 his PSA suddenly skyrocketed. He went in for tests and they found the cancer was back and it had spread throughout his body. They removed one of his lungs late last year, but by summer the other was full of cancer. He was hospitalized repeatedly. None of the treatments really worked. They sent him home last week, in time for his 60th birthday, with days to live. His claim with the VA died with Bob this morning at 5:17 AM. I have no idea what I will do now…
We receive four to seven of these a week. Every week. Fifty two weeks a year. We read them through our tears, and theirs. God! How could so many sailors have been so blessed with such strong wives!?

How could an agency of the United States Government act in such a crass and inhumane manner? Not only was their action illegally done, it was unjustified and unjustifiable, and we felt confident the court would say that in its decision in the Haas case. It was a cruel and heartless action, done coldly. 

To be perfectly honest, we pray that people like Anthony Principi, Jim Nicholson, and the author of the precedent that was used to change the manual, Mary Lou Keener, rot in the lowest level of Hell for all eternity. So grievous were their actions that even that fate may be too good for them.

…he had been treated for heart disease and other problems for about five years, all after being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Yesterday after lunch he went in to take a short nap. When I went to wake him for our afternoon walk, he was gone. He should have gotten VA benefits, but he was denied and never appealed it. The Lord knows we could use the money for his funeral, and to pay off the mortgage on the house. I don’t want to lose this place. It has too many memories of us in it…
They come in emails, and in their words, through our tears, we see theirs. And in their words we see behind their tears an aura of nobility, grace and strength. These are not women to be trifled with, to be shunted aside with barely a glance, or ignored completely.

These women fulfilled a compact with their sailors, and because their sailors fulfilled a compact with their government, and died as a result of that compact, their wives must be compensated, even though their husbands were not.

We strongly urge the citizens of this nation to take up this cause and make it one of their goals, to see that justice is done for these good and strong women – the wives, widows, and daughters of our Blue Water Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War.

What the DVA did in 2002 was not only illegal, but because it was illegal, it was stupid. Because they did not follow due process of the law under the Administrative Procedures Act by putting their changes out for public comment, they made a clear and unmistakable error. Any of their actions subsequent to that policy change are therefore illegal if the DVA personnel followed that policy in the changed manual section.

The Courts, or better yet, Congress, which could save the Veterans and their Wives a lot of unnecessary legal action, should issue a law connecting prior claims denied under these illegal changes. Because the DVA erred, anything that was ruled subsequent to that error based on that error, must be reviewed and overturned and benefits issued retroactive to the date of the claim. That includes any claims that died when the claimant died, any claims that were rejected based on the erroneous policy change, and appeals that were denied based on that change. Everything in those categories should be reconnected and reprocessed back to the date of the original claim, non-severed by any failure to appeal as well. It was the DVA that erred, not the claimants.

The court or Congress, should also rule that all these claims should be processed to the issuance of benefits within 6 months, including retroactive benefits.
…God gave me thirty wonderful years with my sailor, and I treasure every second of those years. Even the cross words that were sometimes exchanged will be sorely missed. When he took that final voyage last spring, the VA had not completed his claim. Now they won’t even answer my letters and calls. I had to put the house up for sale last summer, and am now living in a small apartment downtown so I can get around. But it is a dangerous neighborhood. I’ve been mugged twice, but all they got was a few dollars. They could have asked me for it and I would have given them the money. Ralphie would have given them each a bloody nose for their trouble. Sometimes, when I am trying to make a decision, I think, “what would he have done?” I was a housewife, I get no retirement from Social Security. I have a little bit left from Ralph’s IRA, and from the sale of the house, but that will be gone in a few years. I don’t know what I’ll do then…
We owe these courageous women a debt that goes far beyond mere gratitude. In many cases, we owe them our lives. Not many of us are financially secure. The presence of VA Benefits will go along way toward building that financial security for us to leave behind. Our wives, and children deserve it because we earned it, and they did, too. They care for us in our pain and illness, they comfort us, they haul us around to doctors, clinics, labs, and offices, and in between all that other stuff they write, phone, fax, and email on our behalf.

Gentlemen, Attention on Deck! To the indomitable and courageous wives, widows, sweethearts, and daughters of the
Vietnam Veterans of the Blue Water Navy, 

Hand salute!

Two!

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Dear Congress



If you think the Medicare Rescue that is coming due in a few years is a critical issue that needs a resolution soon, you have not been paying attention to the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

While you have been squabbling across the aisle at each other over Medicare, and Obamacare, your Department of Veterans Affairs went down the tubes. 

Gone. 

Broken.  

Corrupt. 

An abject failure for General Shinseki.  And it is not his fault.  It is the fault of a Congress that failed to pay attention to what the people in the DVA were doing.   

We want to tell you that going by the old rule of thumb that ‘politics is the art of delaying a decision on an issue until the issue is no longer relevant’, is no longer possible.  At least not in the case of the DVA.  You’ve done that, for example, with the Blue Water Navy-Agent Orange Exposure issue.  Some of their claims are a decade old or older.  Apparently, we are taking too long to die for your rule of thumb. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention to what the DVA has been doing.  First, they have been amassing an enormous amount of real estate holdings that require ever increasing amounts of cash to purchase, and even more to maintain.  The bulk of these holdings are empty and have been for years.  They serve no purpose.  There is no reason to acquire more, and certainly no reason to keep [and maintain] the huge empire of empty real estate they now own.  This is nothing more than a testament to the monumentally stupid mentality in DVA management.   And lest anyone thinks that this is a partisan issue, it is not…it has been going on for decades, through the administrations of several presidents from either party. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention.  Every time you voted to pass an appropriation for military spending to support the wars we’ve been fighting for the past decade, you have neglected to pass proper proportional increases in spending for the care of those who placed themselves VOLUNTARILY in harm’s way for their country, and suffered wounding, injury, psychological trauma, or death.  That includes appropriations for the increase of staff necessary to deal with the enormous number of those Veterans included in that group, and the additional ones seeking their GI Bill benefits.

Congress, you have not been paying attention while the DVA acquires land and builds “rural” health care clinics across the country, ostensibly to make it easier for veterans to reach care provided by the DVA.  This is a fraud.  Those Veterans served by the “Rural” Health Clinics received treatment at their local health care provider at the same cost the VA charges [to the tax payer, not to the Veteran!] in its hospitals and clinics.  THE DIFFERENCE IS IN OVERHEAD!  The DVA pays no overhead costs for the visits a Veteran makes to a private physician.  For its own “rural” health care centers the DVA pays to acquire or rent the property, construct a new, or remodel an existing structure, equip it, staff it, and maintain it.  The difference is that the DVA pays for a Veteran to travel to a VA Regional Hospital in non-emergency cases, or to transport a stabilized patient in emergency situations where admission to a hospital is required – and that difference is enormously weighted more heavily to the acquisition of the new rural health care centers and their ongoing costs.  The “rural” health care system is a wasteful fraud.

Congress, you have not been paying attention to the growing backlog of claims.  The backlog has stood for a number of years at about a million.  Now, with 45% of troops coming out of the military as the Global War on Terror goes dormant, the claims backlog will reach two million very quickly, perhaps by the end of the year.  The end of any war means the return of troops to the job market.  Many will return to their old jobs, while many [a large portion of that 45% figure] will take advantage of the GI Bill benefits and go to school, keeping them out of the job market for a year or longer.  But the bulk will come home and take off their uniform for the last time, and try to find work.  It boggles the mind that the DVA does not have a program that dedicates jobs for Veterans within the DVA.  Why are returning Veterans not actively recruited to work in the Veterans Affairs Regional Offices [VARO or RO]?  We mean heavily recruited, like having someone from the DVA do recruiting and initial screening as part of the Armed Forces separation process?  They are by law entitled to Veterans Preference in Civil Service hiring, so give them an advantage and help many of them avoid the job market altogether.  What you get is a person who is disciplined, mature, shows initiative and innovation, and who knows the Armed Forces, is likely IT savvy, and is eager to stay out of the job market. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention while you throw billions of dollars at the Department of Defense [DoD] and the DVA in an effort to have the computer systems of each department be able to talk to the other, and transmit data and data requests back and forth.  Each effort failed because of both departments playing the “turf war game.”  This is gross incompetence and negligence.  It is a simple process of matching data elements from each side and having each side create new data elements for those that do not match.  Then each side agrees on a common computer language in which to transmit data.  It is called ‘standardization’.  Placing threats of sanctions on both departments if the next effort fails would work only if those sanctions were real and had teeth…along the lines of suspension, investigations for fraud, corruption, negligence or malfeasance, and likely firing with a forfeiture of pension and benefits after being found guilty.  Failure is not an option. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention while the DVA pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.  You should be asking why anyone well compensated for their work would require a bonus!  And for a department disintegrating before your very eyes, it hardly seems likely that ANYONE in the DVA deserves a bonus at all. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention.  The DVA has no standardized claims rating system.  A claim in Sacramento, California for Traumatic Brain Injury rated at 80% disability will see a 30% disability in Milwaukee, and a denied claim in Miami.  In Dallas or Denver, it might never even see the light of day, having been lost.  The best thing the DVA ever did was to put up the Veterans Online Application [VONAPP] system on the Internet where the Veteran, or someone helping the Veterans can data enter an entire claim, get a Claim number and a receipt for the claim, and wait for the Regional Office to contact them with a request for documentation.  It starts the claim process rolling, and in the event of a claim being lost, it provides a point and date to restart the claim.  If the DVA can do that, they can also very easily standardize the claims and rating systems [Two separate entities—you must be determined to have an eligible claim in all respects except medical to get a rating, which is done by way of a physical examination called a Compensation & Pension [C&P] Exam.  The result of the C&P Exam determines the rating, or level of disability].   

Congress, you have not been paying attention to the fact that because of the claims backlog and the anti-Veteran attitude in the DVA, many Veterans die before they should because of a lack of medical care for which they are eligible but not approved, and many Veterans die in poverty and leaving their widows and survivors in poverty because they die before their claims for compensation are approved, and many Veterans languish in pain and despair while waiting as long as a decade or longer for benefit approval that they have earned. 

Congress, there is no great fix for this.  More money, vastly more money is required to fix it, but money alone will not fix this.  Unless you tie accountability and real penalties for failure and fraud and negligence to the increases required to fix this, and make such waste and fraud as the Rural Health Care system and the employee bonuses illegal, you will only get more of the same.  Unless you instill upon every employee of the DVA that the care of the Veteran is a higher priority than the taxpayer’s dollar, your fix will fail, for that priority must also be embraced by Congress. 

Your inattentiveness over the past decades has created a monster, and it may eat us all alive faster than anything Social Security will do.  And that monster is already upon us.


Dear Congress, think what this all will mean to future generations of potential recruits.  What message does your inattentiveness send to them? 

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.