What does it take.?
How can I explain adequately the desperation of a veteran’s efforts to file a claim, and get their claim processed expeditiously? I can’t. The problems are real and run deep.
I do not want my observations to look like a pity trip, but I feel the need to tell the story as seen through the eyes of a veteran that is mired in the process. My claim started in April of 2004, and as of March 2010 it is waiting to be presented as an appeal to the BVA. (Bureau of Veterans’ Affairs)
[Update] The information above, as you see, was March 2010. It is now March 2012. My appeal to the BVA was presented and once again denied. I have handed over my appeal to attorneys more knowledgeable than me in dealing with attornies.
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Shinseki decided to establish a service connection for Vietnam veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicide referred to Agent Orange. The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B-cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease and brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as being associated with Vietnam service.
Now .. convience the Senate to delay the decision made by the "Secretary of Veteran Affairs". Why would the Secretary of Veterans Affairs decisions be delayed, of overturned? To the Secretary this decision was a no-brainer, but to Senate it may be a no-brainer until you look at the cost. Here is a copy of the story you decide.
Tom Philpott | June 03, 2010
Webb: Delay Agent Orange Claims
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), chief architect of the pricey Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefit for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war era, could become a new champion, for taxpayers, against what he perceives as excess spending on military pay and on a new wave of Agent Orange claims.
Webb, a former Navy secretary and decorated Vietnam War veteran, risked the anger of thousands of veterans from that war when he won Senate approval last week of an amendment to block, at least temporarily, the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying new disability claims on three prominent diseases presumed linked to wartime herbicide exposure.
As many as 86,000 Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease or B-cell leukemia are awaiting a final VA regulation to receive disability compensation based on a decision last fall by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki of evidence linking these diseases with exposure to deadly defoliant used during the war. Many more vets could file first-time claims.
VA officials not only have published interim regulations already but, for months, have been encouraging veterans stricken with these diseases, or their surviving spouses, to file new claims or re-file claims as soon as possible because benefits would be paid back to claim filing dates.
But Webb proposed, and senators accepted May 27, an amendment to the fiscal 2010 war supplemental funding bill (HR 4899) to limit spending on claims filed for these new presumptive Agent Orange diseases for 60 days. That will allow Congress time to study the VA decision and examine more closely the link found between these diseases and herbicide exposure.
Immediately after the vote, Webb began a trip to Asia and could not be reached for comment. He told Congressional Quarterly, however, that he wants Shinseki to explain his reasons for expanding last October the list of presumptive diseases tied to Agent Orange. Congress, he said, needs to hold VA to “an accountable standard” for such claims.
The VA draft regulation, published in March, projected costs for Agent Orange claims will jump by $13.6 billion in a year and by $42.2 billion over 10 years. By comparison, the projected 10-year cost of new Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that Webb pushed into law is $52 billion.
Webb first became involved in Agent Orange issues while staff director of the House Armed Services Committee in the late 1970s. He has expressed concern to staff and fellow senators over the expanding list of diseases presumed caused by defoliants in Vietnam. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 makes veterans who suffer from these presumptive diseases eligible for compensation even if they spent only a day in country.
What worries Webb, said one Capitol Hill source, is that, based on modest scientific evidence, VA could be paying claims on diseases that a large proportion of any population will contract through normal aging.
Webb noted last week that a decision in 2001 making Type 2 diabetes a presumptive disease of Agent Orange exposure now allows 263,000 veterans to draw disability compensation. He said projected estimates of heart disease alone among Vietnam veterans are much higher.
Webb’s amendment language, if agreed to by the House, would invoke the Congressional Review Act which allows a funding freeze on any major government regulation or initiative so Congress can review the proposed changes. If in 60 days opposition strengthens and a majority of lawmakers will risk the wrath of expectant veterans with these ailments, Congress could pass a joint resolution to prevent a final regulation from taking effect.
Webb serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and chairs the personnel subcommittee of the armed services committee. A spokesman for Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans committee, said Akaka “is seeking more information from Secretary Shinseki about this, because of the potential impact of the ischemic heart disease presumption on the quality and timeliness” of services for all veterans.
"We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will," Shinseki said. "Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence."
Once this decision was made by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the process started, but was suddenly put on hold. Why? During his confirmation hearing, it sounded like General Eric Shinseki had the support of Congress, and that Congress understood the need to support our Military that risk it all in service to our Country.
Now Senator Webb says hold up.. look at the expense. Others agree and Secretary Eric Shinseki's decision is delayed. All the while expressing outrage at BP for the Oil Spill, and demanding BP get busy paying claims. Does the word HIPOCRACY come to your mind?
This is NOT good news for the veteran because we may see the process once again get buried into one of those committees to evaluate. Committee evaluation is a polite term for delay – a way to bury it while figuring out how to get out of the "costly" decision made by the secretary.
Our Country is better than this and supports our military just as our military has supported and defended our country, even at risk of their own lives. This Nov we have an opportunity to vote some of these politicians out of office. All I am saying is to look at the record of the person you vote for, and look for those that support you as a Veteran.
Our Military once again is getting pencil whipped? Words of support followed with action based on budget.
Bio of The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
*** Secretary Approves Fast Track to Process Claims