Monday, December 7, 2009

For U.S., a record of neglect Agent Orange

For U.S., a record of neglect

Part 1 of 5: U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange face delays and a maddening bureaucracy as they seek compensation for related illnesses. In Vietnam, where untold numbers of people suffer from the same maladies and the chemicals continue to poison the environment, government officials wonder how the U.S. can ignore the ongoing effects of the defoliants.

Part 2: 'Insult to injury'
For many U.S. veterans, the bureaucratic fight to be compensated for health problems linked to Agent Orange amounts to a new and unexpected war, long after the shooting ended overseas

Part 3: Born into controversy
Coming Tuesday: The most contentious question surrounding the use of defoliants in the war is their impact on Vietnamese citizens, particularly the suspected link between the herbicides and birth defects.

Part 4: A poison still potent
Coming soon: New research finds former U.S. airbases in Vietnam remain polluted from defoliants, underscoring the urgency of a solvable problem. The U.S. has done little to clean up the hot spots.

Part 5: Danger not averted
Coming soon: The Tribune unearths documents showing that decisions by the U.S. military and chemical companies that manufactured the defoliants used in Vietnam made the spraying more dangerous than it had to be.

The lingering controversy over the herbicides on both sides of the Pacific Ocean provides a sobering reminder of the often unforeseen consequences of war at a time when the country is fighting protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We do not know the answer to the question: What happened to Vietnam veterans?" said Jeanne Stellman, an epidemiologist who has spent decades studying Agent Orange for the American Legion and the National Academy of Sciences. "The government doesn't want to study this because of international liability and issues surrounding chemical warfare. And they're going to win because they're bigger and everybody's getting old and there are new wars to worry about."

The VA said in 2003 it would take the model under advisement. The agency is still evaluating it.

"I'm surprised that it hasn't been pursued more energetically," said Dr. David Savitz, a physician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City who chaired the institute's review panel.

In September, the VA announced a broad, three-year study on Vietnam veterans' health, but it won't look specifically at defoliants like Agent Orange. Coming more than three decades after the war ended, the plan has many veterans believing the government is simply waiting for them to disappear.

"The mantra of the VA is delay, delay, delay until they all die," charged Paul Sutton, a Vietnam veteran and former chairman of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, now the secretary of veterans affairs, has acknowledged the adversarial relationship between the VA and former soldiers. A Vietnam veteran who was wounded in combat, Shinseki has vowed to be more of an advocate for those who serve the country.

Members of Congress say much of the foot-dragging on studying Agent Orange is tied to the bottom line.

"I don't think they really want to know the answer," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "The (financial costs) would be so high that they'd scare the hell out of everybody."

Rhis is the story that makes the average veteran mad as hell, it depends on WHO your friends are if the VA helps you in a quick mode, or if like most veterans filing claims, they die before the claim is ever adjudicated. Friends do matter like the old saying goes "it's not what you know, rather is it who you know" this article sums it up rather well old school ties and all.....
Jack Cooley delivered his final argument in a long, distinguished legal career from a hospital bed.

Four months before succumbing to multiple myeloma, the Chicago-area Vietnam veteran and federal magistrate judge wrote a 140-page claim for justice and filed it with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Cooley's message to the government was personal and direct: Agent Orange is killing me, and you need to take responsibility.

Cooley didn't know it last spring, but when the former Army artillery captain filed his disability claim, he was just entering a maddening bureaucratic maze many veterans know well. The VA would kick back Cooley's claim after a month, saying he lacked the required proof he'd served in Vietnam.

Cooley could have spent months navigating this convoluted path. But with Cooley's life fading, his family reached out to an old friend, a member of his West Point class of 1965. It was former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, recently appointed secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In short order the obstacles to Cooley's claim disappeared. The VA delivered three monthly disability checks for $2,700 before Cooley died July 21, at 65, in Evanston.

"This was insult to injury," said his daughter Christina. "If Gen. Shinseki was not ... a family friend and a West Point classmate, we would have never seen a dime. It makes me think about everybody else out there struggling without resources."

I am sad for Jack Cooley and his family but because of his friendship with General Shinseki and who is now in a position to help an old friend and his family, the red tape was cut and quick my claim took 7 years it appears his friends was done in days why? I think we all know the answer to that I was nothing but a Army veteran with no friends and who had made the local VA Regional Office mad and they made me pay by denials and appeals etc thanks to a decent BVA Judge I finally got my claim settled October 2002 - April 2009 thank god I lived long enough....

How many veterans don't?

Please read the entire series from the Chicago Tribune this should get a Pulitzer

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