Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arguments for Expanding the AO Equity Act - Part 2

Today we post the second part of our argument in favor of expanding the Agent Orange Equity Act [HR3612/S.1629], by using receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal instead of requiring Veteran claimants go through an unduly burdensome process of proving they were aboard their ship when it ventured inside the 12 mile territorial limit off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam. Today, we estimate the cost of the bill.  

Estimating the cost of HR 3612/S1629 

It is difficult to estimate numbers of Veterans receiving Agent Orange benefits. The DVA is not very forthcoming with those numbers, likely because it will show so low as to invite scrutiny.
"It is difficult to know just how big a population is included in today’s sphere of eligibility. No publicly accessible database tracks the number of Vietnam veterans receiving disability compensation or medical care for conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. While information on medical conditions, disability compensation, average income, and education levels is available for Vietnam-era veterans generally, the data do not identify those whose claims are connected to Agent Orange."
[US Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the impact 40 years later, National Organization on Disability. June, 2009, [Page 14]]

Our estimate is arrived at this way: According to the Defense Manpower Center's VIETNAM CONFLICT - CASUALTY SUMMARY, there were 229,000 Navy personnel who received the Vietnam Service Medal. Approximately 60,000 served in country/brown water. An unknown number are already dead, perhaps as many as 25%. More are receiving benefits based on the ship lists added by the DVA Compensation & Pension Service [which we estimate at about 5,000]. Many will simply not file claims for varying reasons: many are not sick, some do not need the help, some are not aware that these benefits exist, and other simply will not file a claim.

We estimate that the number of Army/Marine personnel who are receiving AO benefits is approximately 12-18% of the total who served on the ground in Vietnam.

Accordingly, we estimate the number of new claims resulting from the enactment of HR 3612/S/1629 would be somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 with the likelihood of the number being closer to the lower than the upper.

Assuming every claim is approved at 100%, and each Veteran is married, the maximum monthly benefit of $2924 extends out to $350,880,000 per 10,000 new claims the first year. This does not count retroactive benefits. But not every claim will be approved at 100%, most will be at 20%-40% and lower.

Estimate Maximum Payout Ranges:

Estimate Level      10,000 claims generated      20,000 claims generated
Maximum       $350.9M       $701.8M
@ 20%       $70.2M       $140.4M
x 10 years       $702M       $1.404B
@ 40%       $701.8M       $280.8M
x 10 years       $1.404B       $2.808B

So the range of costs for the first year [not counting Retroactive Benefits] would be:

$70.2Million to $280.8M

Extended out over ten years the cost [not counting Retroactive Benefits] would be:

$702M to $2.808B.

[Note: Each year starting with the second year, the number of claims will go down due to deaths of claimants, adjusted upward somewhat for DIC [Survivor’s Benefits] if survivors are eligible.  There is no accurate way to predict the amount of Retroactive benefits or DIC benefits. Also, actuarially, the death rate will be higher in the first years and decline in years five through ten.]

Counting an estimate for the Retroactive Benefits, $3.5B for ten years is probably a slightly high maximum.

Wednesday: Finding the Money
 
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, April 26, 2012

Arguments for Expanding the AO Equity Act - Part 1

Today we begin a three part series that will continue into next week. We are offering a three part argument for expanding the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011 [HR 3612/S.1629] and doing away with the requirement that ships must have been inside the twelve mile limit. Today's entry is the basic argument for expansion.  As you will see, we believe it can be done with no additional cost.

Regarding the 12 mile limit. 

90% of the ships that received the Vietnam Service Medal [VSM] spent time inside the 12 mile limit. Even the carriers would venture in on occasion, one even anchoring in Danang Harbor. The carriers would come in close to make travel time shorter for their aircraft coming and going over Vietnam, and to shorten the return trip for a wounded plane or pilot. They also did a lot of ground support on short notice while big land ops were happening.

So, the increase in money to cover that last 10% of ships is not going to be much. We believe that cost will be offset by savings from the reduced processing time required to process a claim if the VSM is used: Verify receipt of the VSM, verify an AO disease, verify discharge better than dishonorable = Approve! The Veteran needs to file his claim and provide a DD-214 including verification of award of the VSM, and a copy of his current medical condition from his physician showing one or more of the AO Related diseases. Estimated processing time from receipt: two-eight weeks [to obtain verifications], plus time to schedule and process a Compensation and Pension examination to determine the level of disability [rating].

On the other hand, making the Veteran prove he was aboard a vessel when it entered and operated inside the 12 mile limit requires the Veteran to acquire copies of his ship’s Deck Logs [from the National Archives], plot out the course [on a nautical chart] his ship followed on the dates when the ship was inside the territorial limits, and provide that proof to the DVA [which must: assist the Veteran in obtaining evidence, but seldom does], and then examine the evidence to judge it acceptable evidence of presumptive exposure. Estimated processing time from start of claim: 3-24 months. Add it to the backlog of unprocessed VA claims, which already stands at over a million claims and the wait can be even longer.

It is an undue burden to place on the Veteran claimant to jump through so many hoops.

It is also far more costly to the DVA, and therefore the taxpayers to impose such requirements.  

Humanitarian issues:

Dropping the 12 mile limit and replacing it with receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal, or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam would:
[A] result in greatly reduced claim approval time resulting in faster receipt of medical care and financial benefits;
[B] catch all the BWN who are eligible who would not be able to prove being aboard ship while it was inside the territorial limit; and
[C] more quickly get the VA “over the hump” of processing a large number of new claims, thus freeing them up to work on their existing backlog.
We would note that many of those who would be covered under this bill are a part of that current backlog with active pending claims. Designating 3-5% of the claims processors in each Regional Office to handle claims under this authorization will decrease the backlog because it would eliminate those Blue Water Navy claims currently pending, and alleviate the caseload of the Veterans Courts for those Blue Water Navy claims currently under appeal.

Monday:  Estimating the total cost of the bill.  

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, April 06, 2012

On the Passing of Fred Gersh

It is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing yesterday of Fred Gersh, of Alexandria, Virginia. Fred was a great friend, and fellow warrior in the fight to secure benefits for all who were exposed to Agent Orange. We shared many moments in Congressional committee meetings with Fred, and planned strategies together.

Fred was a Vietnam Veteran of the US Air Force, and died yesterday morning after a long battle with Prostate Cancer. Fred was diagnosed 23 years ago. That’s how much of a fighter he was. He and his dear wife Micki visited with us a few years back, and we can attest to the fact that even at rest, Fred was always planning and plotting a strategy for his fight against prostate cancer.

A number of years ago he gave us the blue prostate cancer lapel pin. We wear it often, and will wear it today during our meeting with a US Senator.

Fred was a good man, and the world is a much lesser place for his passing. We will miss his sage advice and lessons in patience. And now we will miss his lessons in courage and persistence.

We wish you blue skies, Fred. Our prayers are with you, and with Micki.

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, April 01, 2012

Addressing the VA's Claims Backlog

You must pardon our skepticism…we have some doubts…but the DVA is ALWAYS right…isn’t it?

Several days ago there was an announcement by the DVA. They proudly trotted out the Secretary to announce a major innovation that will speed claims processing! Few details were given, but they were all described as “medical forms” -- all 63 of them. 63 new “medical forms” introduced into the DVA’s claims processing system with Secretary Shinseki stating, “VA employees will be able to more quickly process disability claims, since disability benefits questionnaires capture important medical information needed to accurately evaluate Veterans’ claims. Disability benefits questionnaires are just one of many changes VA is implementing to address the backlog of claims.”

With over a million claims in backlog, the DVA geniuses figure 63 more forms, some of which may be multiple pages, will make the backlog go away.

Let’s repeat that so you can think about it.

With over a million claims in backlog, the DVA geniuses figure 63 more forms, some of which may be multiple pages, will make the backlog go away.

Let’s see, it takes time to print them, then to develop a curriculum to train the good folks who have accumulated a million plus claim backlog, then to train those same folks, after which they will turn those forms loose on the many Veterans Service Officers who help Veterans with their claims, and then on the Veterans who handle their own claims.

Nothing was said about these forms replacing older, outdated forms. Rather, they are being ADDED to the forms both a Veteran and the DVA Claims processor must go through and complete in order to file a claim.

The DVA says that adding those 63 new forms to the process will go a long way toward clearing that backlog.

Yep, we can see how this would have an immediate effect on the DVA’s million plus claims backlog.

How about two, three or even four million claims in that backlog?

[At our C&P exam we were given our complete file in a locked bag to take from one doctor to another. We almost needed a wheelbarrow. Having filed the claim ourselves, we were amazed by how much paper was in that bag! It must have weighed 30 pounds. We generated about 10% of that by submitting our medical records.]

We always thought Secretary Shinseki to be an intelligent man, and he probably is. But he must also be the most gullible man on earth to believe what the Maniacal Morons at the DVA who came up with this idea sold him on…as a fix for the claims backlog!

“Disability benefits questionnaires are just one of many changes VA is implementing to address the backlog of claims,” Shinseki said.

One shudders to think what else might be in store as a fix for the million claims backlog.

We have a fix in mind…it involves firing everyone in the DVA’s Washington DC HQ [stands for HindQuarters]. That includes Shinseki. Replace them all with Veterans. Get the policy weenies out of the way, and put Veterans who know what the cost of their service REALLY means in their places. Get rid of their medical and scientific people, too. Have Congress task the Institute of Medicine with determining its own directions for doing Veterans related statistical and medical and scientific studies. Don’t let anyone with a Political Science, or law degree, or an Ivy League education within a mile of DVA HQ [Stands for HindQuarters]. Let Veterans run the DVA. Let no one into that building who is NOT a Veteran, except as a visitor.

We think that would guarantee the elimination of the backlog within a year.


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.