xEd Note: This open letter came in the VetSpeak.org e-mail, this a.m. It directly addresses a post from VA Watchdog, http://www.vawatchdog.org/10/nf10/nfjul10/nf071710-1-1.htm, which I had just finished posting to FaceBook. Ed Jackson is doing exactly what we all need to be doing, speaking out. Only we should begin to be doing it in an organized fashion…TOGETHER, as one voice, instead of in frustrated and angry individual outbursts. As long as we are fighting and arguing among ourselves about political ideology or schoolbook philosophy, and continuing to exercise organizational chauvinism, rather than coalescing all of our knowledge, and all of our influence and resources in a concerted and unified campaign to confront and oust these tyrants on these issues specific to our experience as Veterans, they will continue to deny us that which we have, through our service in peace time and in time of war, earned. Until then, VetSpeak.org’s pages are open to other voices in the wilderness wishing to speak out about the V.A.’s uncaring treatment of the very Veterans that the agency was created to serve.WH
Dept. of Veteran's Affairs
A National Embarrassment
Our nation faces a lot of issues today, from the failed economy, to jobs, to defense, to healthcare, to housing, to the out of control national debt.
Nearly every one of these problems have been self inflicted by the US Congress. The Democrats have controlled the Congress for 4 years now and in that 4 years, the US has nearly imploded. Republicans did not do much better when they controlled the Congress. Congress has increased entitlement programs a staggering 50% in 4 years. In FY-2006 theDepartment of Health and Human Services (HHS) was about $600 Billion, in FY-2010 it is $900 Billion. HHS administers most entitlement programs. HHS is scheduled to have a huge budget increase in the next few years, as it begins administrating ObamaCare.
In contrast the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) had a budget of about $90 Billion in FY-2006, and about $100 Billion in FY-2010, including a 9% increase in contracted attorneys this year. Why does the VA need an increase in attorney costs? Because it has some 3 million pending or appealed claims from veterans from WWII to today's Global Wars on Terrorism in Iraqand Afghanistan the VA is still fighting. There are still some 800,000 claims from Vietnam Era veterans, most of which have claims or appeals for exposure to Agent Orange. To settle these claims for Agent Orange exposure the VA has taken the official approach of "we are waiting for an Army to die". The VA has refused to consider evidence submitted by veterans to support their claims or appeals. The VA has refused to comply with the law that says if there are no government records found, and the veteran provides his/her own evidence then the "benefit of doubt" goes in favor of the veteran.
The VA current will not pay concurrent compensation if a veteran is retired from the military and collecting his/her earned retirement. If these veterans have a VA disability rating of 50%, or less, the the retired veteran must give up a dollar for dollar amount of retired pays for his/her compensation. In effect, the veteran is funding his own VA disabilities and the VA is not.
I am one of those veterans, who gives up a portion of my USAF retirement pay to collect a 30% disability ($376 per month) "compensation". That compensation is seperate from my claim of Agent Orange exposure. I am one of some 800,000 veterans who served in Guam, the "Blue Water Navy", Thailand, Okinawa, and other places that directly support combat operations in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange while performing service to our great nation. We veterans served in the US Army, USN, USAF, USMC, and USCG. We were mostly between 18 and 22 years old when we were exposed, although some were also then approaching retirement age back then, between 38 and 48. About 200 Vietnam Era veterans are now dying each day. Many others, including myself are in poor health, and are being denied health care and compensation from the VA. Many of us can no longer work. But, what hurts us more than being denied by the VA, is we are finding out our exposures to Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, back in the 1960s and 1970s is we have passed new health problems to our children and grandchildren. The health effects of dioxin is truly multi-generational.
Past Congresses have set this type of system up for disabled veterans to jump through the hoops at the VA. The VA and Dept. of Defense (DOD) insist that records cannot be found for the storage, use, and disposal of Agent Orange on Guam, or shipment by USAF aircraft or USN ships, including chartered aircraft and shipping. But that is like saying "we cannot confirm or deny.....", which has been a DOD standard statement since WWII.
Just where do you think all of that Agent Orange went after its use was stopped in South Vietnam in 1970? Well, it wasn't Kansas.
Does the US Government even know that if the VA paid all 3 million claims and appeals pending at 100% disability compensation, under $3000 per month, it would cost about $9 billion per year, not including administrative costs. That is less than 10% of the current VA budget of about $100 billion per year (FY-2010). That is about the same amount of money the VA increased their budget to pay attorneys with (to fight the claims against the veterans). In FY-2009, the US Congress spent some $3 billion of the "cash for clunkers" program. They pay senior executives of Fannie-Mae and Freddie-Mac, about $90 million per year, and are about to give each another (up to) $150 billion. The USAF is about to spend some $40 billion on a KC-X (the next generation tanker aircraft) to replace stored KC-135s that even they say are safely flyable until 2040 or longer, with new engines and upgrades (at a fraction of the cost of the KC-X).
President Obama and the current Congress spent $787 billion in 2009 in a failed attempt to save jobs and the economy. Unemployment has climbed from about 7% before that money was spent to as high as 10% since that money was spent. Thank you Congress and Mr. President. The President recently visited a battery plant Holland, MI (owned by a South Korean company) and gave them some $300 million to open a new plant in Holland for 300 workers, a cost of $500,000 per new job. Yet, the government continues to ignore those of us who answered our nation's call when they needed us. President Obama and the current Congress is no friend of the current troops now fighting for us, or past veterans who have. Just last year he floated an idea he had to have current war veterans who were wounded, many with lost limbs, pay for their own health care and wounds or injuries incurred during their military war service.
It is time we started supporting our current and former veterans, the VA will not, and this Congress will not. All of us veterans who have been waiting for years for settlement of our claims will be voting this November. I assure you, no candidate or incumbent can expect our support if they will not support the veterans, and correct the national disgrace the VA is.
Msgt. (RET), USAF