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vietnam_war_vet

"boots-on-the-ground" Vietnam In-country Dva Policy/requirement For Ao Claims

Question

Last spring, I was rejected/denied for the 4th time by the DVA for my AO claim (I have chloracne and DMII diabetes). In 1990, the Boise VAMC took tissue samples from me during an AO screening and their doctors did find dioxin/AO in my fat tissue. I was then placed on the DVA's official Agent Orange registry, but in the same 1990 notification letter...the DVA refused to acknowledge or treat my chloracne -- even though the skin sores/lesions started during my second tour in 1972-73. The Boise VAMC doctors labeled it as a form of folliculitis (<--- spelling?) and not caused by AO exposure.

I served at Nankon Phanom Air Base (NKP) in northeasternmost Thailand (across the Mekong River from Laos). As required on occasion per Task Force Alpha, I went on interdiction missions into Laos along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The HCM trail was frequently/heavily defoliated with AO, plus the perimeter of NKP was AO defoliated. I watched the C-123s spray and knew enlisted personnel on the flightline who loaded the AO onto those planes. At our commander's meetings, we "enlisted" were told it was pesticide that was being sprayed around the base perimeter for mosquito control. How stupid did our officers think we were? After those sprayings, the mosquitoes continued to thrive, while all the plantlife died.

Back to my most recent denial: for this claim attempt - I had the DAV as my representative/service officer. The resulting DVA denial letter informed me that a review of my service records showed that I had not put "boots-on-the-ground" in-country Vietnam, therefore I was not eligible for my AO DMII claim or any other AO-related claim. My state DAV service officer then told me that I could appeal, but I would be wasting my time and everyone elses since I had not been within the borders of Vietnam proper.

I did a Google search plus a search on this forum's search engine and really didn't get any definitive insight on this "boots-on-the-ground" in-country service policy requirement for AO comp claims.

For my NKP/TFA tour, I was awarded the VSM, RVCR, and the AFCM.

On the Yahoo AO "Spring-Into-Action" forum, one of the moderators told me that former DVA Secretary Principi was responsible to this "boots-on-the-ground" in-country Vietnam policy and it was done to eliminate AO-exposed veterans like myself who served in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand from qualifying for compensation claims....strictly a beancounting measure by Principi to reduce the number of compensated claims/awards. Is this true??

Any insight or feedback would be appreciated. -- Michael

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Guest Berta

Walter- you correctly stated exactly what is what on this issue-

we don't doubt you could have an AO illness-

but at the web site I gave you recently-

http://www.vspa.com/k9/agentorange3.htm

these are Thailand vets clearly stating the problem-and the BVA decision there shows exactly what Walter means-

http://www.va.gov/vetapp99/files2/9916522.txt AO Thailand -granted

Please note I had taken pertinent parts of this decision out of context- but these claims can be awarded-

In May 1996, the RO denied entitlement to service connection

for immunoblastic lymphoma. The RO noted that while the

veteran was clearly stationed in Thailand, he was never

stationed in Vietnam. The RO cited 38 C.F.R.

§ 3.307(a)(6)(iii) and determined that the veteran did not

meet the requirements of service in Vietnam.

The veteran filed a timely notice of disagreement (NOD) in

June 1996. He stated that while he acknowledged that he was

not stationed in Vietnam; he was stationed in Thailand, four

miles from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He stated that he saw

Agent Orange being dropped from the helicopters above and

witnessed the vegetation die. He reported that he was

stationed at a gymnasium which was located next to the jungle

areas that were sprayed with Agent Orange.

In this case, the veteran clearly has had respiratory cancer,

which is one of those diseases incorporated in the special

presumptions with regard to disabilities as a result of

exposure to Agent Orange.

Thus, the only significant issue to be resolved is whether he

was in fact exposed to dioxins in service. The evidence in

this regard may not be independently verifiable or

overwhelming, but the aggregate data are entirely consistent

therewith. In that regard, the Board finds that the

veteran's explanations of his exposure quite credible and

historical map evidence verifies that Nakhon Phamon is on the

Thailand/Vietnam territorial border. He has provided a

comprehensive description of the activities through which he

was exposed to concentrated dioxins, while readily

acknowledging that he was never stationed within the Vietnam

border.

These asserted facts mesh well with those more readily

recognizable things for which there is no need for

verification. They also make good common sense when placed

next to the known problems such as the ongoing rain in the

Far East during that portion of the year which made the

requirement for non-soluble defoliants a reality in the first

place. All are entirely believable and consistent with the

other known information.

The service department has verified that the veteran was

indeed where he said he was, at a time when military build-up

from a support standpoint was considerable, and at a time

when warnings were not necessarily given, as he stated, since

the hazards were not fully understood. He can scarcely be

faulted for the non-verifiability of specific practices on

the Thailand border. His assertions in that regard are both

reasonable and justifiable and appear both sound and

factually accurate, all of which raises a certain premise

from which conclusions may be reasonably drawn. It is

exactly such situations in which the Court has mandated that

the Board make judgments with regard to ultimate and relative

credibility, which in this case, the Board finds in the

affirmative.

Consequently, based on the above, and giving the benefit of

the doubt, the Board finds that there is satisfactory

evidence that the veteran had active service sufficiently

proximate to if not in the Republic of Vietnam during the

Vietnam era to have sustained Agent Orange exposure and that

he is entitled to application of the presumptions relating to

such service with respect to exposure to Agent Orange under

38 C.F.R. §§ 3.307, 3.309.

The Board again notes that the veteran has a respiratory

cancer, one of the diseases for which presumptive service

connection is permitted based on exposure to Agent Orange.

38 C.F.R. §§ 3.307, 3.309.

Thus, having concluded that the veteran was exposed to

herbicides while assigned to Nakhon Phamon from 1969 to 1970,

not coincidentally concurrent with other entirely reasonable

circumstances enumerated by the veteran, the Board finds that

a doubt is thus raised which must be resolved in his favor,

and in so doing, that service connection must be granted for

immunoblastic lymphoma as being the result of Agent Orange

exposure under pertinent exceptions to the regulations. 38

U.S.C.A. §§ 1110, 5107; 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.303, 3.307, 3.309.

ORDER

Service connection for immunoblastic lymphoma as secondary to

Agent Orange exposure is granted.

-------------what you have to consider is- as Walter said- the theory of presumption doesn't work with these claims- proof of exposure to AO regardless of where- with resulting AO illness -is what gains service connection.

Also the above veteran was highly decorated:

"The veteran's VA DD form 214 reflects that the veteran

received the Good Conduct Medal; Good Conduct Medal with

Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; Longevity Service Award Ribbon with

four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; National Defense Service

Medal; Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon; Meritorious

Service Medal; NCO Professional Military Education Graduate

Ribbon; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnam Service

Medal; AF Outstanding Unit Award with two Bronze Oak Leaf

Clusters; and the AF Commendation Medal with one Bronze Oak

Leaf Cluster. The veteran served on foreign soil for three

years eight months and seventeen days"

But it did not matter as this is not a factor in claims of exposure to AO-

Also some of the veterans service records were missing and could not be obtained- however the BVA stated:

"Also of record are some other service documents, which

confirm assignment units, duties, locations, etc., identified

elsewhere in this decision. In this case, these are more

important to the disposition of the case."

These AO outside of Vietnam cases are no different than what most vets have to go through for any disability-

have a current diagnosis and then some documented evidence that it had a link to their service.

Service officers dont look for the evidence - the veterans have to-

This is why I believe the DAV seems negative to you-

If you get a complete copy of all of your military records there might well be the names of commanding officers or others who you could attempt to find to support any evidence of the spraying where you were in Thailand at that time-

Also- you need to access other Thailand vets-

It took me seconds to find this one at Military.com:

bjasi

Basic Training

Registered: Thu, 25 November 2004

Posts: 1

Agent Orange in Thailand

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I know there's a lot of people questioning this and I'm not alone. I too, have been diagnosed with T2 Diabetes. I was @ Udorn RTAFB, Aug 70-Jul 71. Worked in 432 AMS. Any one else diagnosed with T2 while in Thailand or have knowlede of AO used in/stored at Udorn or other bases in Thailand? Of course, we had Air America at Udorn too! Who knows what they really did.

Any help/information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanking all of you in advance,

Bruce Jasinski

Posts: 3938 | Registered: Tue 12 November 2002 "

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Michael:

You've gotten good advice regarding your claim from the DVA, DAV and the folks here on Hadit. The bottom line is you simply cannot win at a presumptive AO claim. This isn't working and you need to change your tactics if you want to succeed. It's just that simple.

The DAV isn't required to represent you, no service organization is. At this point it appears they feel they've done all they can. You tell us they've informed you of what you can't do but I don't see where you mention being informed of what you can do. That doesn't surprise me though as I don't see you've been any too receptive to the suggestions made here. Not all SO's are cut from the same cloth, some go the extra mile, some don't. At this point it's up to you to pursue your own claim. Learn the statutes and regulations and submit everything yourself. Keep copies of everything, then you'll be assured everything you wanted to submit gets there. There is no requirement to have a SO. You'll need to rescind the POA you signed for the DAV before you can represent yourself.

You'll need to discover evidence of AO usage where you served and need to show you were exposed there. Work with the TVVETS folks, this is what they do. The VA has a duty to assist the veteran in finding evidence to support his claim but they just send letters out to official sources asking for info. If they are ignored or told no info exists, they stop. They don't have to persist till hell freezes over. That's your job. At some point they will decide no more info exists and adjudicate your claim on what they have, usually to your detriment.

Now, as far as your chloracne goes, the VA C&P service has determined you have folliculitus and not chloracne. That is a valid medical opinion and it isn't likely to change. If you disagree with their findings, complaining about it isn't going to make a difference. You have no medical standing and your medical opinion is worthless in the eyes of the decision maker. Your option here is to accept their diagnosis or hire your own doctor to render an independent medical opinion (IMO). You will have to have your service medical records available for his review and he will have to include a statement to the effect of he has reviewed your records, examined you and found you have chloracne and more likely than not, it is due to exposure in Thailand.

Personally, I'd question the veracity of any physician willing to do that for several reasons. Firstly because every man, woman and child in the U.S. will test positive for dioxin exposure. It's all around us in the food we eat and the milk we drink. You've sprayed it on your yard and garden for the past 40 years and then rolled around in it playing with your dog and kids. Secondly, because my reading on chloracne indicates it manifests itself within 1 year of exposure (usually a couple of weeks) and self resolves within 2 years. The likelihood that your chloracne persisted for more than 35 years is very slim.

In the end, you are going to need to get very proactive with your claim. If you need advice on specifics, this is a good place to it.

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Guest Berta

Good advise- and I realised that -if I recommended an IMO-I was wrong- it won't help you because you still need the documented linkage to your AO exposure in service.

It is a shame that you have been denied so many times yet failed to get proactive -but it isn't too late-

the internet can be a blessing in finding what you need.

I have a claim in with overwhelming evidence and yet I am still looking for more evidence-

In the time these claims take from filing to a decision there is so much a veteran can do to help the process along.

Seems to me the first thing they need to do is get not only all their med recs but a complete copy of their military records-and do all they can to anticipate the claim's weak points and work on them.

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Michael:

You've gotten good advice regarding your claim from the DVA, DAV and the folks here on Hadit. The bottom line is you simply cannot win at a presumptive AO claim. This isn't working and you need to change your tactics if you want to succeed. It's just that simple.

***Not trying to be rhetorical, but when the precedents are already in to DVA's system (such as the BVA case that Berta shared of a Nakhon Phanom Air Base veteran being awarded his AO claim for being exposed to AO solely at NKP...along with another BVA case of another veteran who served at Thailand's Ubon Air Base - just downriver from NKP - also being awarded AO claim by the BVA), why doesn't those precedents automatically apply to other veterans - like myself - who also did their Vietnam War tours at NKP, Ubon, and other Thailand, Laotian, and Cambodian locations? Why do we have to keep being denied, delayed, and repeatedly made to jump through hoops for years for what is already legally applicable (per the BVA decisions) to us?

As I had stated, my question wasn't rhetorical. Deny and delay as more and more of our fellow Vietnam War veterans die each day....that is and has long been the DVA's true agenda. Why should the DVA have to pay monthly compensation to veterans when by denying and delaying, the DVA will instead only have to pay a pitifully small burial benefit.

The DAV isn't required to represent you, no service organization is. At this point it appears they feel they've done all they can. You tell us they've informed you of what you can't do but I don't see where you mention being informed of what you can do. That doesn't surprise me though as I don't see you've been any too receptive to the suggestions made here.

***That's your opinion/assessment of me based on a few comments posted on this cyber forum?? You couldn't be more wrong....

Not all SO's are cut from the same cloth, some go the extra mile, some don't. At this point it's up to you to pursue your own claim. Learn the statutes and regulations and submit everything yourself. Keep copies of everything, then you'll be assured everything you wanted to submit gets there. There is no requirement to have a SO. You'll need to rescind the POA you signed for the DAV before you can represent yourself.

You'll need to discover evidence of AO usage where you served and need to show you were exposed there. Work with the TVVETS folks, this is what they do. The VA has a duty to assist the veteran in finding evidence to support his claim but they just send letters out to official sources asking for info. If they are ignored or told no info exists, they stop. They don't have to persist till hell freezes over. That's your job.

***As I stated above concerning those precedent BVA decisions on AO claims for Thailand/Vietnam War veterans....no, my job is to submit my AO claim to the DVA (which I have now 4 times). The DVA has access to my military records that prove I served in the same theater/locale as those veterans who received those AO claims via those BVA cases...so the DVA's job...along with the DAV SO....is to say, "here's another NKP AO veteran" and facilitate/expedite the award for the compensation/claim. Are you condoning the DVA's deny and delay policies?? It appears so, but I don't have your talent for cyber clairvoyance. Bottom line: in the real world, I don't know you....and you don't know me.

At some point they will decide no more info exists and adjudicate your claim on what they have, usually to your detriment.

Now, as far as your chloracne goes, the VA C&P service has determined you have folliculitus and not chloracne.

***BTW, I never had any skin problems/disorders prior to my NKP tour. No childhood/teenage acne, nada. The skin outbreaks manifested while I was still at NKP, but I attributed it to a combination of too much C-Rats (I literally lived on C-Rats there) and relentless heat & humidity. After I returned to the states, the skin outbreaks continued. Again, I just thought it was from my diet (too much junk/fast food), etc....and simply put up with it. The skin eruptions/outbreaks have continued basically unabated to this day. I have scarring virtually body-wide.

That is a valid medical opinion and it isn't likely to change. If you disagree with their findings, complaining about it isn't going to make a difference. You have no medical standing and your medical opinion is worthless in the eyes of the decision maker. Your option here is to accept their diagnosis or hire your own doctor to render an independent medical opinion (IMO). You will have to have your service medical records available for his review and he will have to include a statement to the effect of he has reviewed your records, examined you and found you have chloracne and more likely than not, it is due to exposure in Thailand.

***Via the recommendation of a VVA SO in 1996, I tried exactly this (the IMO) at the University Hospital in Albuquerque. After skin samples/biopsies were taken from me, those tissues were sent to the Albuquerque VAMC's dermatology department for analysis. I didn't know in advance that the University Hospital and the VAMC had such an working arrangement/relationship when it came AO diagnosis, but they did. Not to my surprise, the VAMC dermatology department ruled folliculitis again and non-AO related.

Personally, I'd question the veracity of any physician willing to do that for several reasons. Firstly because every man, woman and child in the U.S. will test positive for dioxin exposure. It's all around us in the food we eat and the milk we drink. You've sprayed it on your yard and garden for the past 40 years and then rolled around in it playing with your dog and kids. Secondly, because my reading on chloracne indicates it manifests itself within 1 year of exposure (usually a couple of weeks) and self resolves within 2 years. The likelihood that your chloracne persisted for more than 35 years is very slim.

***Um, as I stated above....my skin eruptions/outbreaks have continued basically unabated since they first started while I was still at NKP. In my opinion, it is possible that your reading sources on chloracne may be suspect/biased.

In the end, you are going to need to get very proactive with your claim. If you need advice on specifics, this is a good place to it.

***I have gotten some good advice and specific references/sources from participants on this forum, especially Berta. Also in my opinion, the DVA and some of the organizational SOs need to get proactive and just do their damned job with veterans. They're not, therefore they have transferred the onus onto veterans like myself. This is nothing more than agency-wide denial of the DVA's shirking of responsibility, all the while deflecting the responsibility completely onto the veterans for the DVA's malfeasance/imcompetence.

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Michael:

You've gotten good advice regarding your claim from the DVA, DAV and the folks here on Hadit. The bottom line is you simply cannot win at a presumptive AO claim. This isn't working and you need to change your tactics if you want to succeed. It's just that simple.

***Not trying to be rhetorical, but when the precedents are already in to DVA's system (such as the BVA case that Berta shared of a Nakhon Phanom Air Base veteran being awarded his AO claim for being exposed to AO solely at NKP...along with another BVA case of another veteran who served at Thailand's Ubon Air Base - just downriver from NKP - also being awarded AO claim by the BVA), why doesn't those precedents automatically apply to other veterans - like myself - who also did their Vietnam War tours at NKP, Ubon, and other Thailand, Laotian, and Cambodian locations? Why do we have to keep being denied, delayed, and repeatedly made to jump through hoops for years for what is already legally applicable (per the BVA decisions) to us?

As I had stated, my question wasn't rhetorical. Deny and delay as more and more of our fellow Vietnam War veterans die each day....that is and has long been the DVA's true agenda. Why should the DVA have to pay monthly compensation to veterans when by denying and delaying, the DVA will instead only have to pay a pitifully small burial benefit.

The DAV isn't required to represent you, no service organization is. At this point it appears they feel they've done all they can. You tell us they've informed you of what you can't do but I don't see where you mention being informed of what you can do. That doesn't surprise me though as I don't see you've been any too receptive to the suggestions made here.

***That's your opinion/assessment of me based on a few comments posted on this cyber forum?? You couldn't be more wrong....

Not all SO's are cut from the same cloth, some go the extra mile, some don't. At this point it's up to you to pursue your own claim. Learn the statutes and regulations and submit everything yourself. Keep copies of everything, then you'll be assured everything you wanted to submit gets there. There is no requirement to have a SO. You'll need to rescind the POA you signed for the DAV before you can represent yourself.

You'll need to discover evidence of AO usage where you served and need to show you were exposed there. Work with the TVVETS folks, this is what they do. The VA has a duty to assist the veteran in finding evidence to support his claim but they just send letters out to official sources asking for info. If they are ignored or told no info exists, they stop. They don't have to persist till hell freezes over. That's your job.

***As I stated above concerning those precedent BVA decisions on AO claims for Thailand/Vietnam War veterans....no, my job is to submit my AO claim to the DVA (which I have now 4 times). The DVA has access to my military records that prove I served in the same theater/locale as those veterans who received those AO claims via those BVA cases...so the DVA's job...along with the DAV SO....is to say, "here's another NKP AO veteran" and facilitate/expedite the award for the compensation/claim. Are you condoning the DVA's deny and delay policies?? It appears so, but I don't have your talent for cyber clairvoyance. Bottom line: in the real world, I don't know you....and you don't know me.

At some point they will decide no more info exists and adjudicate your claim on what they have, usually to your detriment.

Now, as far as your chloracne goes, the VA C&P service has determined you have folliculitus and not chloracne.

***BTW, I never had any skin problems/disorders prior to my NKP tour. No childhood/teenage acne, nada. The skin outbreaks manifested while I was still at NKP, but I attributed it to a combination of too much C-Rats (I literally lived on C-Rats there) and relentless heat & humidity. After I returned to the states, the skin outbreaks continued. Again, I just thought it was from my diet (too much junk/fast food), etc....and simply put up with it. The skin eruptions/outbreaks have continued basically unabated to this day. I have scarring virtually body-wide.

That is a valid medical opinion and it isn't likely to change. If you disagree with their findings, complaining about it isn't going to make a difference. You have no medical standing and your medical opinion is worthless in the eyes of the decision maker. Your option here is to accept their diagnosis or hire your own doctor to render an independent medical opinion (IMO). You will have to have your service medical records available for his review and he will have to include a statement to the effect of he has reviewed your records, examined you and found you have chloracne and more likely than not, it is due to exposure in Thailand.

***Via the recommendation of a VVA SO in 1996, I tried exactly this (the IMO) at the University Hospital in Albuquerque. After skin samples/biopsies were taken from me, those tissues were sent to the Albuquerque VAMC's dermatology department for analysis. I didn't know in advance that the University Hospital and the VAMC had such an working arrangement/relationship when it came AO diagnosis, but they did. Not to my surprise, the VAMC dermatology department ruled folliculitis again and non-AO related.

Personally, I'd question the veracity of any physician willing to do that for several reasons. Firstly because every man, woman and child in the U.S. will test positive for dioxin exposure. It's all around us in the food we eat and the milk we drink. You've sprayed it on your yard and garden for the past 40 years and then rolled around in it playing with your dog and kids. Secondly, because my reading on chloracne indicates it manifests itself within 1 year of exposure (usually a couple of weeks) and self resolves within 2 years. The likelihood that your chloracne persisted for more than 35 years is very slim.

***Um, as I stated above....my skin eruptions/outbreaks have continued basically unabated since they first started while I was still at NKP. In my opinion, it is possible that your reading sources on chloracne may be suspect/biased.

In the end, you are going to need to get very proactive with your claim. If you need advice on specifics, this is a good place to it.

***I have gotten some good advice and specific references/sources from participants on this forum, especially Berta. Also in my opinion, the DVA and some of the organizational SOs need to get proactive and just do their damned job with veterans. They're not, therefore they have transferred the onus onto veterans like myself. This is nothing more than agency-wide denial of the DVA's shirking of responsibility, all the while deflecting the responsibility completely onto the veterans for the DVA's malfeasance/imcompetence.

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      I'm not sure who to ask about this deposit. I am concerned because I was not notified I would be receiving it.
      I retired from the Marines in 1997 with 10% disability. I've been receiving a separate disability payment from my regular retirement pay. This deposit is completely unexpected. thank you for any insight.
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