Letter To Director of Veterans Administration Regarding Agent Orange

 As is frequently said in my coterie of combat veteran friends, “Agent Orange,the gift that keeps on giving.”
I will remind the reader, that one of the more elevated functions of blogging is to solicit more truth from a broader base than might be afforded in the dailies. If retired Major Wesley Clark, is on his game, than one could say that this topic is not much different than what the Marines have been dealing with at Camp Lejune with toxic water supplies. Truth is the last casualty of war.


2349 Nut Tree Lane
McMinnville Oregon 97128
February 27 2012

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I chair our small group of veterans who flew and maintained the Fairchild C-123K “Provider” for ten years following the Vietnam War. These aircraft remained poisoned from the war, with dioxin intense enough to be labeled by Air Force scientists as “heavily contaminated” and “a danger to public health.”

When we asked the Air Force and VA to investigate, we were instead given two press releases explaining that, while the aircraft “may” have been contaminated, there wasn’t enough TCDD left to likely cause long-term health problems for our veterans.

VA’s position was quickly challenged, in particular by the Toxicology Department of Oregon Health Sciences University and the School of Public Health at Columbia. Further, on 26 January 2011, the deputy director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated that our veterans were most likely exposed, and over a long time, and at a level about 200 times more likely to cause cancer. He also said our exposure was probably even more intense in the decade we flew, which was as much as 22 years before that first scientific testing.

General, any observer would conclude that the VA’s threshold of probably has been well-met in our case. Our aircrews, maintenance personnel, flight nurses and medics have been exposed to dioxin, our parent service has confirmed this contamination and its danger, and the federal agency responsible for reaching the definitive conclusion about that has voiced their finding quite clearly. Any benefit of the doubt must rest in our favor, but there is little doubt about this issue.

We must ask that the Department withdraw its statements concerning the lack of TCDD contamination and the unlikelihood of personnel exposure. Outside scientists have called the VA’s preparation of their C-123 position “unscientific.” Some of the authors cited have specifically asked that their works have no relation to aircrew exposure. Several of the authors cited insist aircrews have been exposed, and yet the inference of the VA reports is that the sum of evidence available speaks against a reasonable possibility of aircrew exposure.

That simply is not so. Yet, these statements discourage veterans from considering Agent Orange claims. The statements discourage VSOs from working on our claims, regardless of our proven legitimate eligibility for claiming TCDD exposure.

Benefit of the doubt is supposed to fall on the veteran’s side. We have exceeded the threshold of any reasonable benefit of the doubt, and indeed quite the opposite – there is very little doubt that we weren’t exposed.

As we understand it, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs can designate our aircraft (since destroyed by the USAF because of their contamination) as Agent Orange exposure sites. Please do so. If instead, some other action on your part leads to our veterans receiving medical care for their Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses, please bring us relief via that path instead.

As volunteer aircrews we willingly flew these older airplanes and accepted the extra hazards of flight inherent in them. The Army really needed these aircraft and their unique short-field capabilities, as we proved in several REFORGER exercises. Nobody knew about the contamination during the years we flew but certainly everyone knows now! Our duty was to fly, and now the VA’s duty is to address our medical concerns resulting from exposure to dioxin.

We’d be grateful for an opportunity to discuss this with you or a representative, but we’d be better served by your executive action in designating our old airplanes as Agent Orange hotspots so that we can proceed with fair evaluation of our claims.

And our claim, sir, is “Boots on the Airplane.”


For the C-123 Veterans:


Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired


    Wes Carter

Welcome Home Parade for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War

Support the troops in Welcome Home parade March 31 Tucson, Ariz., February 27, 2012 — Arizonans from all walks of life will cheer the troops and wave American flags at a long overdue parade to welcome home returning servicemen and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Saturday parade on March 31 begins at 10:30 a.m. in downtown Tucson. Parade viewers are encouraged to bring small American flags to wave. The parade salutes veterans and active-duty personnel in the U.S. armed services who fought in the Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom–Afghanistan wars. All other veterans are invited to participate. The parade’s organizer, Alan Toppel, said, “Our valiant warriors need to be honored for their service to our country and the brave sacrifices they have made for the cause of freedom.” The City of Tucson Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously endorsed the parade. Committee Chair Vern Pall said, “This will be a memorable parade and a proud day for our community. The Committee appreciates the chance to say welcome home and thank you to these troops.” The parade will progress north on Stone Avenue from Pennington Street, move west on Franklin Street, then turn south on Main Avenue, east on Alameda Street, south on Church Avenue, and then head east on Pennington. The parade will end where it began at Stone and Pennington. The parade organizing committee welcomes parade entries, sponsorships, volunteers, and donations. Forms are available on the Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/TWHVP. For more information, please contact Alan Toppel at (520) 495-7064 or email tucsonswelcomehome@gmail.com.

Veterans Affairs Budget Request 2013

Department of Veterans Affairs outlines FY2013 funding request

VA Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of Public Affairs
Media Relations
Washington, DC 20420
(202) 461-7600
News Release


VA Budget Request Tops $140 Billion for Veterans Programs

WASHINGTON — With more than 1 million active-duty personnel scheduled to join the ranks of America’s 22 million Veterans during the next five years, the President has proposed a $140.3 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
“As our newest Veterans return home, we must give them the care, the benefits, the job opportunities and the respect they have earned, while honoring our commitments to Veterans of previous eras,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
Shinseki said the budget proposal, which must be approved by Congress, would fund services for newly discharged Veterans, continue the drive to end homelessness among Veterans, improve access to benefits and services, reduce the disability claims backlog, improve the Department’s collaboration with the Defense Department and strengthen its information-technology program that is vital for delivering services to Veterans.
“As we turn the page on a decade of war, we are poised at an historic moment for our Nation’s armed forces,” Shinseki said. “The President has charged VA to keep faith with those who served when they rejoin civilian life.”
The budget request includes $64 billion in discretionary funds, mostly for medical care, and $76 billion for mandatory funds, mostly for disability compensation and pensions.
If approved by Congress, the new spending levels would support a health care system with 8.8 million enrollees and growing benefits programs serving nearly 12 million Servicemembers, Veterans, family members and survivors, including the eighth largest life insurance program in the nation; education benefits for more than 1 million Americans; home loan guarantees for more than 1.5 million Veterans and survivors; plus the largest national cemetery system in the country.

Here are highlights from the President’s 2013 budget request for VA.

Medical Care

The President’s proposed budget seeks $52.7 billion for medical care, a 4.1 percent increase over the $50.6 billion approved by Congress for the current fiscal year, and a net increase of $165 million above the advance appropriations level already enacted for FY 2013.
For the next fiscal year, VA estimates 6.33 million patients will use VA for health care. About 610,000 of those patients will be Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget request also would provide:
* $403 million for the gender-specific health care needs of women Veterans, improving their access to services and treatment facilities;
* $6.2 billion for mental health, a 5.3 percent increase in funding over the current level, making possible increased outreach and screenings, expansion of innovative technologies for self-assessment and symptom management of post-traumatic stress disorder, and enhancements to programs that reduce the stigmas of mental health;
* $7.2 billion for long-term care, meeting VA’s commitment to provide long-term care in the least restrictive and most clinically appropriate settings, such as non-institutional programs that serve a daily population of about 120,000 people;
* $583 million in direct appropriations for medical research, which receives another $1.3 billion from other sources, with emphasis on research for traumatic brain injury, suicide prevention, PTSD and genomic medicine;
* $792 million to support the activation of health care facilities, including new hospitals in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Denver and Orlando, Fla.
Funding in VA’s major construction account of $396.6 million is provided to continue construction of new medical facilities at Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis and Palo Alto, Calif.
Since enactment of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act in 2009, VA includes an advance appropriations request for medical care in the Budget submission. Included in today’s spending request is $54.5 billion for FY 2014, which begins Oct. 1, 2013. This request for advance appropriations will support nearly 6.38 million unique patients and fulfill our commitment to Veterans to provide timely and accessible high-quality medical services. The Administration will review the initial advance appropriations request in the FY 2014 budget cycle.

Veterans Job Corps

The 2013 budget proposes $1 billion over five years for a Veterans Job Corps, a new effort to leverage skills Veterans developed in military service for a range of jobs protecting and rebuilding America’s public lands. The initiative would put up to 20,000 Veterans to work on projects to restore America’s lands and resources.

Disability Pay, Pensions

In the next fiscal year, VA projects it will receive about 1,250,000 claims for Veterans disability benefits. This is a 4 percent increase from the 1.2 million projected for this fiscal year.
Shinseki noted that today’s claims from Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on average, total 8.5 disabilities per Veteran, a rate nearly double that for claims by Veterans of earlier eras and a substantial increase in the workload for VA employees who administer the benefits system.
By 2013, the budget projects no more than 40 percent of compensation and pension claims will be more than 125 days old, a significant cut from the 60 percent of claims exceeding that mark this year. Other improvements funded by the new budget include:
* A new case-management operating model that moves less complicated claims more quickly through the system;
* Additional eBenefits self-service features that allow registered Servicemembers, Veterans and their families to apply for benefits and manage certain aspects of their benefits accounts online;
* Publicly available electronic medical questionnaires that allow private physicians to provide VA with exactly the information needed for Veterans claims for disability compensation; and
* National implementation of a system for processing disability claims that will have all of VA’s regional offices, working in a digital, near-paperless environment by the end of 2013.

Veterans Homelessness

The proposed VA budget for fiscal year 2013 contains nearly $1.4 billion for programs that prevent or treat homelessness among Veterans. This is an increase of 33 percent, or $333 million, over the 2012 level, continuing the Department’s steady progress toward ending Veteran homelessness by 2015.
In the past year, the number of Veterans homeless on a given night has declined from 76,300 in 2010 to about 67,500 in 2011. By emphasizing rescue and prevention, the budget request envisions driving down the numbers to 35,000 by the end of fiscal year 2013. Some specific efforts funded in the new budget are:

* $21 million to provide 200 coordinators who will help homeless Veterans with disability claims, housing problems, job and vocational opportunities, and problems with the courts;

* $300 million to provide grants and technical assistance to community non-profits to maintain Veterans and their families in their current housing or to get them rapidly into housing;
* Provide grants and per diem payments to community-based organizations offering transitional housing to 32,000 homeless Veterans; and
* Build upon the recent success of a VA hiring fair in Washington, D.C., which drew about 4,000 Veterans and has led to about 500 hiring offers to date.

Education Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill will help pay the educational expenses of more than 606,000 Servicemembers, Veterans, family members and survivors during the next fiscal year. Over the past two years, VA has successfully deployed a new IT system to support processing of Post-9/11 GI Bill education claims, and has seen a dramatic improvement in the timeliness and accuracy of its processing program during the same period.
A separate funding increase of nearly $9 million would expand the “VetSuccess on Campus” program from 28 campuses to 80, serving approximately 80,000 Veterans. The program provides outreach and supportive services during their transition from the military to college.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

The budget request for 2013 would provide $233 million, a 14 percent increase over 2012, to administer VA’s vocational rehabilitation and employment program. The increase is focused on expanding services to wounded, ill and injured Servicemembers to ease their transition to the civilian sector. Program participants are expected to increase from 108,000 in 2011 to 130,000 next fiscal year.

National Cemeteries

Fiscal year 2013 will see $258 million for operation and maintenance of VA’s system of 131 national cemeteries if the budget proposal is accepted. The budget supports the initial implementation of a new policy to establish a national cemetery presence in eight rural areas.
Funding in VA’s Minor Construction budget request would finance $58 million for land acquisition, gravesite expansion and columbaria projects. Also included in the budget request is funding for online mapping of gravesite locations from the IT account.
With a funding request of $46 million, VA will continue its partnership with the states by funding the construction, expansion and improvement of state Veterans cemeteries, while continuing its support to Veterans cemeteries on tribal lands.

Information Technology

The 2013 budget proposal includes $3.3 billion for information technology, a $216 million increase over the current budget. VA operates one of the largest consolidated IT organizations in the world, supporting over 300,000 VA employees and about 10 million Veterans and family members who use VA programs. About 80 percent of the IT budget supports the direct delivery of health care and benefits to Veterans and their families.
The Department will build upon its unparalleled success rate of 89 percent on-time delivery of IT milestones by continued improvements in support of access to health care, ending Veterans homelessness and improved benefits delivery. VA will implement the integrated Electronic Health Record with Department of Defense, easing the transition from active status to the VA health care system by upgrading electronic health records for all Veterans to a single, common platform.
IT funding will enable VBA’s transformation to a digital and near paperless environment using the Veterans Benefits Management System, decreasing claims processing times by 50 percent, while VA’s telehealth programs will take advantage of new IT technologies, increasing VA’s ability to provide health care to Veterans in remote locations.
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Benefits For Veterans Exposed To Radiation

The National Association of Atomic War Veterans is on the prowl for approximately 195,000 veterans who were exposed to atomic atmospheric tests between 1945-1962. They are also looking for those who were part of the occupation forces at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If these individuals have experienced any one of 21 different cancers that are directly linked to radiation exposure they may be entitled to a one time compensation of $75,000 from the United States Government, in accordance with the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or a monthy stipend up to $2673.oo a month from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since 1990 very few have applied for this benefit that is also extended to widows and their children if the veteran died with the proper diagnosis and service connection.

The applicants need medical records and the location of the exposure.  The application will be reviewed and verified by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

I am sure the reader here is stunned that this reminder memorandum is being sent around the nation years after most of  these men and women have passed on.

Did anyone actually think the government responds in a timely fashion?

I knew a fine gentlemen, who resided in Nogales,Arizona, that was at ground zero at Hiroshima in Grave Identification. No question about his exposure. His name was Joel. He was 86 year old. I helped him with his claim. He could not collect it because he was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico.

Another local man named Jim, was exposed while attending ABC School, (Atomic Biological Chemical Warfare), in 1962. He has enumerable rare cancers. He has been fighting for his claim for 21 years.

Give the Government credit. They learned how to speed up the research for the modern day veterans. It only took them 30 years to recognize Agent Orange exposure.


Review Of Veterans Affairs Budget 2013

Believe it or not the input from the Veterans across America is important to this committee. It is my belief that the Director, former General Erik Shinseki is doing a stellar job under the most difficult national financial travail the VA has ever seen.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Tell us what you would like changed or improved about the Veterans Administration and I will be happy to forward it to the listening people.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 14, 2012
CONTACT: Amy Mitchell (202) 225-3527

***** MEDIA ADVISORY *****

Committee to Review 2013 VA Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, at 10:30 A.M., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing to review the 2013 VA Budget.

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY2013
WHEN: 10:30 A.M., Wednesday, February 15, 2012, Room 334, Cannon House Office Building


Panel 1
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Accompanied by:
The Honorable Robert A. Petzel, M.D., Under Secretary for Health
Veterans Health Administration

Ms. Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits
Veterans Benefits Administration

Mr. Steve L. Muro, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs
National Cemetery Administration

The Honorable Roger W. Baker, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Mr. W. Todd Grams, Executive In Charge, Office Of Management & Chief Financial Officer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Panel 2
Mr. Carl Blake, National Legislative Director
Paralyzed Veterans of America

Mr. Raymond C. Kelley, Director, National Legislative Service
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Mr. Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director
Disabled American Veterans

Ms. Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director

Mr. Timothy M. Tetz, Director, National Legislative Commission
The American Legion

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