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USAFdaughter

Question About Proving Exposure

Question

My father passed away in 2007.

I have heard stories of widows who successfully received DIC even if their husband had not been awarded VA disability before their death, if they could show exposure through medical records, etc...

Well,

I have found some letters that Dad wrote that explain how exactly he was exposed to experimental and confidential (at the time.. I don't know about now) toxic chemicals.

So far I only know it happened in 1967 (which is when he was stationed in Thailand, but also around the time he might have been doing clandestine missions with Air America), but knowing my dad, he probably has more specific information written down on a paper I am yet to find (I'm in the process of going through his papers). The papers are typed but at the end of one letter he did sign it with an ink pen (of course it's not certified, but as good as I'm gonna get with him passed away).

The story is that there was an emergency landing by an aircraft near the weapons shop where Dad was working. The rear door opened and the airmen in the back were gagging and struggling to get out of the aircraft and there was this dark sticky stuff sprayed all over them and everywhere in the aircraft, even dripping out the back door. Dad rushed over to help them out and, in the process, got covered in the stuff. It was quite some time before he could get to barracks to change and shower and by then there were large red sores where the stuff had soaked through his fatigues and his skin had been burning for quite some time, but there was nothing he could do. He got some salve from the dispensery, but his skin stayed tender for days and the red spots took weeks to go away. He asked around and discovered that the sticky stuff was some sort of confidential and experimental agent that they were spraying until the line burst within the aircraft, spraying the belly of the plane as well as everyone inside.

Within just a couple of months he started developing medical conditions such as bowel problems and reoccurring kidney stones, trouble taking deep breaths, fatigue, and upset stomach. Later medical tests showed that every organ in his body had sustained damage and he just got sicker and sicker until he died 40 years (to the year) after this incident.

Do you think there is any way, assuming I find out what day or month his exposure occurred, to use this incident as "proof" of his exposure? There may be a record in existence of the emergency landing?

Dad also mentioned extreme levels of radiation (due to a powerful radar system in place) at the Udorn RTAFB....and I wonder if there have been any claims related to that?

Am I hoping for too much or is there something I can do to help my mom to receive DIC benefits or anything else?

I have also found some papers that show that Dad submitted a disability claim with the VA in 1970. He was on disability, but it was NOT through the VA. It was through his employer as of 1979: General Motors. Dad DID have Type 2 Diabetes, which is now on the AO list. However, there was no autopsy and the cause of death is listed on the certificate as "Morbid Obesity".

Nice of the govt to wait until so many veterans have passed away to start adding more "diseases" and countries to the AO lists. I was telling mom today how "funny" it is that they "forgot" where they used the stuff until .. you know.. some guy just "happened" to be looking through this 40, 50 year old file and was like "by golly, lookie here! I guess we used herbicides in Thailand and Korea too!" Is that how it happens? Ridiculous. In another 20 or 30 years, it will start getting released that they had other chemical agents, that other health problems are symptoms. Other countries were affected. And about the time my generation is retiring, they might mention that some of our health problems COULD have possibly been caused by AO but they are not sure yet, and about the time we are in our 80's or 90's and they don't have to much worry about us causing a stink anymore, they will admit why we developed sicknesses later in life too.

Anyway,

Thank you for any advice! I went to the county Veterans Affairs office Friday, but the Service Officer was out and his secretary was less than courteous or helpful in any way. I thought forums might offer more helpful (or at least heart-felt) advice.

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There is much info here on Thailand veterans exposed to Agent Orange.VA has awarded AO comp for some Thailand veterans.

The VA directive on these claims considers whether or not the veteran's MOS (or other significant evidence) puts them on or near the sprayed base perimeters in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

This will be a problem -even with proof of AO exposure:

"the cause of death is listed on the certificate as "Morbid Obesity"."

Was DMII listed as a contributing cause of death? Does the Death certificate say anything else ?

Is treatment for the burns he received for this incident in his SMRs?

"He asked around and discovered that the sticky stuff was some sort of confidential and experimental agent that they were spraying until the line burst within the aircraft, spraying the belly of the plane as well as everyone inside."

And this?:

"Within just a couple of months he started developing medical conditions such as bowel problems and reoccurring kidney stones,"

This all should be in his SMRs too.

"Do you think there is any way, assuming I find out what day or month his exposure occurred, to use this incident as "proof" of his exposure? There may be a record in existence of the emergency landing?"

I see no proof here whatsoever that he was exposed to Agent Orange.But you should obtain his SMRs and his complete service personnel record to find anything that could prove he was exposed to something in that accident.

The CHECO Report and the Alvin Young papers are here at hadit by links- maybe they contain something that would help prove that this possibly could have been AO but you still need proof that he was exposed to it.

And most importantly you would need to prove that this exposure caused an AO condition that contributed to his death.

Your mother will need to obtain a very strong independent medical opinion, that could be very costly, to prove his DMII contributed to his death.

The base he worked on in Thailand probably had been sprayed around it's perimeter.I think the CHECO report states ALL military installation perimeters were sprayed with it.

His unit probably has a web site and there are Thailand vets here at hadit from time to time as well as on the net.This might take contacting anyone who served in his unit for a buddy statement to prove he was on or near the base perimeter--to prove exposure.

Still- without any medical evidence so far tat he died due to an AO condition causing or contributing to his death-there would be no benefit to your mother for DIC purposes.

The cause of death as Morbid Obesity could possibly have been a consequence of his DMII but that will take a strong medical statement to support that if there is nothing else listed on the death certificate.

You will need his SMRs, and his personnel records, and also all of his medical records.

Your mother is the one who will have to sign the SF 180 and requests for these documents.

The SF 180 is used to obtain Military records and is available at the NARA web site.

There will be a lot of work to do here to prove his death was due to DMII for DIC purposes.

Nothing is impossible however. I was awarded DIC for DMII causing death last year and my husband has been dead for 17 years.

I was told the claim was impossible to succeed in as his DMII was misdiagnosed and left untreated by the VA.

Nothing is impossible.

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Wow--Thanks for your detailed reply! This is very helpful and clears some things up for me.

A couple of weeks ago, we sent away for Dad's military records. Officially it's mom who requested them, as I have heard the surviving spouse is able to receive more information than the children. I didn't know WHAT to ask for, as there isn't exactly a list of things to choose from and it seems that they want specific codes and special titles for things, but we just wrote a note requesting to be sent all service records available, including all medical records, travel papers and TDY assignments.

To be honest, I expect they will probably send a copy of his DD-214 and a list of his immunizations. I hate to sound pessimistic, but it's better than getting my hopes up and then being pissed when that's all that comes-haha.

This is probably a dumb question, but do you know if they keep military records somewhere where a person can go in-person and request copies of things? Or do you have to just mail in your requests and wait months to receive them?

I did have another question about being "on or near the base perimeters in Thailand".... I do know that for a period of time, Dad was given some sort of "guard duty" at his base. It was something where the men were not allowed to be armed because that would violate some sort of agreement with Thailand. Have you heard of this? Would a duty assignment like this qualify for "putting him on or near base perimeters"?

Yes---Morbid Obesity is the only thing listed on the death certificate. Does the actual cause of death HAVE to be AO-related? The fact he "could have" been approved for service-related disability doesn't matter, even if we could now prove his exposure?

What does "SMR" stand for? Service Medical Records? I guess to answer your question about whether or not this incident is listed, we will just have to wait a few months and see what they send us. I did find letters he wrote home about being in the infirmary due to kidney stones. It is dated, so that should be "easy" to look up, I assume(?)

If what dad was exposed to was actually a CONFIDENTIAL chemical.....and let's say the govt STILL hasn't declassified it (I honestly don't know), then would it be a "lost cause" in the sense that they still wouldn't admit anything happened because the stuff "never officially existed"?

If you don't mind me asking, how were you able to prove it after so many years? Was DMII on his death certificate as cause of death? How did they diagnose him post-mortem? Did the doctors remember your husband so that they were able to make statements? Would we have to contact his old doctors in hope that they would remember him? Would the information just be available somewhere in his (oh-my-gosh-EXTENSIVE) medical records? Ha-sorry lots of questions, but I'm just trying to understand it all clearly.

Thanks again for taking the time to help me to understand!

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"I did have another question about being "on or near the base perimeters in Thailand".... I do know that for a period of time, Dad was given some sort of "guard duty" at his base. It was something where the men were not allowed to be armed because that would violate some sort of agreement with Thailand. Have you heard of this? Would a duty assignment like this qualify for "putting him on or near base perimeters"? "

Absolutely if he is within the dates they used the AO in Thailand.

"-Morbid Obesity is the only thing listed on the death certificate. Does the actual cause of death HAVE to be AO-related? The fact he "could have" been approved for service-related disability doesn't matter, even if we could now prove his exposure?"

"couldd have been " involves a possible scenario for any accrued benefits due the spouse- but from what see here no application was made for any accrued benefits or DIC within one year after death.

An AO award could perhaps change that-but-

whatever the cause of death and regardless of AO exposure the cause of death Must be related to his service.

"f what dad was exposed to was actually a CONFIDENTIAL chemical.....and let's say the govt STILL hasn't declassified it (I honestly don't know), then would it be a "lost cause" in the sense that they still wouldn't admit anything happened because the stuff "never officially existed"?"

There would be no potential there for a valid claim. Project SHAD and 112 vets know that well.

"If you don't mind me asking, how were you able to prove it after so many years?" Leg work and studying endocrinology.

" Was DMII on his death certificate as cause of death?" No

"How did they diagnose him post-mortem?"

Ihad three independent medical opinions at cost of 4 thousand dollars that concurred with the medical evidence and research I had done myself on his clinical records.

"Did the doctors remember your husband so that they were able to make statements?"I had sued the VA for wrongful death and I won in 1997. I have 2 DIC awards.The diabetes was additional malpractice that the FTCA matter did not uncover.

The sole VA doctor who did not seem to get involved with the medical cover up of VA's negigence. was the only one whose medical entry appeared to make sense and he was the one it took me months to find in private practice as e had left the VA.

He did remember my husband.His opinion was only a 2 sentence email.

If your dad had private as well as VA medical care then perhaps one of them would be willing to help you with an IMO. The IMO format is here under the IMO forum.

I think you should read over all of the DIC info here.

If your dad was 100% SC P & T for 10 years prior to death then VA would award your mother DIC.

If he wasn't then your mother has to prove something in service contributed to his death.

"Would the information just be available somewhere in his (oh-my-gosh-EXTENSIVE) medical records? Ha-sorry lots of questions, but I'm just trying to understand it all clearly."

His diagnosis and treatments would be in there.Possibly his SMRs will reveal something.

SMRs Service Medical Records.

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These are the regulations for most DIC claims:

"Cause of Death

In order to establish service connection for the cause of a

veteran's death, the evidence must show that a disability

incurred in or aggravated by active service was the principal or

contributory cause of death. 38 U.S.C.A. § 1310; 38 C.F.R.

§ 3.312(a). In order to constitute the principal cause of death

the service-connected disability must be one of the immediate or

underlying causes of death or be etiologically related to the

cause of death. 38 C.F.R. § 3.312(b). In the case of

contributory cause of death, it must be shown that a service-

connected disability contributed substantially or materially to

cause death. 38 C.F.R. § 3.312©(1).

Service connection for the cause of a veteran's death may be

demonstrated by showing that the veteran's death was caused by a

disability for which service connection had been established at

the time of death or for which service connection should have

been established. Service connection means that the facts, shown

by evidence, establish that a particular injury or disease

resulting in disability was incurred in the line of duty in the

active military service or, if pre-existing such service, was

aggravated during service. See 38 U.S.C.A. §§ 1110, 1131; 38

C.F.R. § 3.303(a).

Service connection generally requires evidence of a current

disability with a relationship or connection to an injury or

disease or some other manifestation of the disability during

service. Boyer v. West, 210 F.3d 1351, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 2000);

Mercado-Martinez v. West , 11 Vet. App. 415, 419 (1998) (citing

Cuevas v. Principi, 3 Vet. App. 542, 548 (1992)). Where the

determinative issue involves medical causation or a medical

diagnosis, there must be competent evidence to the effect that

the claim is plausible. Lay evidence can be competent and

sufficient to establish a diagnosis of a condition when (1) a

layperson is competent to identify the medical condition, (2) the

layperson is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or

(3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a

later diagnosis by a medical professional. Jandreau v.

Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2007)."

If you can prove your father did havce perimeter duty in Thailand during the AO timeframe of spraying , and that he did have DMII, and if you can get a doctor with expertise to state ,after a complete review f his medicasl records, that his death was caused by or contributed to by DMII then this would warrant a DIC award.

"Does the actual cause of death HAVE to be AO-related?" No if there is something in his SMRs that could possibly be related t his death.

But that might be difficult to find

"I did find letters he wrote home about being in the infirmary due to kidney stones. It is dated, so that should be "easy" to look up, I assume" This is significant info and so are other problems he mentioned in service.

However how they would contribute to his death is something an IMO doctor would have to decifer.

I am surprised that the death certificate does not have additional statement as "due to a consequence of" and then list one or more other medical conditions. That is most unusual to me to see that type of cause of death without more info.

What was his 1970 VA claim for?

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THANK YOU for your detailed responses! I appreciate it so much. This information can take FOREVER to find on your own!

To answer your question, Dad's 1970 claim was for "disability" but I know little about it.

I have found some papers from 1970 when dad was trying to file a disability claim with the VA.

* There is a letter dated February 9, 1970 from the VA just saying he will receive an appointment for a physical examination soon. It has a reference number.

* There was an outpatient appointment set for 10:00am, Friday June 26, 1970 at the Indianapolis VA. Again it has the same reference number.

* There is a letter dated July 20, 1970 from the VA center in St. Paul Minnesota with a different reference number that states "Since your disability has been rated as service-connected, you may be eligible for this insurance..." So this tells me that at SOME POINT, the VA recognized Dad's disability as being service-connected, but as to my knowledge he NEVER received any benefits from the VA. In fact, as of 1980 he was still trying to get approved for benefits as a result of his exposure to toxins.

* I also have a post card that was "acknowledgement of receipt of claim" saying they had received his application for benefits. There is no date on it, but his file number is that same number mentioned on the first 2 letters and below it, it says 1990. So I don't know if that was in the year 1990 or if 1990 was part of the file number.

Could I or my mom talk to someone from the VA and give them those reference numbers and have them look up his file? Would a case/file that old be in the computers?

I am still looking through dad's old papers so I'm sure I will run across more letters and info, as my father was sort of a pack-rat. . . in so long as no one threw it away after his death.

Mom says she has a whole box of his medical papers from throughout the years somewhere and I have not even begun to tackle that.

As for "Morbid Obesity" being the only cause of death listed, the family was pretty pissed about that.. I know it would have upset Dad, but you know what can you do?

Dad couldn't lie flat on his back or else fluid would start building up in his lungs and he would start "gurlgling," so dad slept on the couch for years so that he would have a way to prop himself up. At the time of death he had acquired a hospital bed and was sleeping on that. Well one night he woke up mom saying his foot/ankle was feeling numb (a regular side-effect of his Type 2 Diabetes (DMII))

Mom woke up and started rubbing his ankle/foot area and he was relaxing again, dozing off. He started gurgling and mom tried to wake him so that he could lean up more. He wouldn't wake. She called 9-1-1. Dad at some point stopped breathing and CPR by the medics did not recessitate him. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Dad weighed on the upper 400-lbs so their inability to recessitate him probably was a result of his size. Perhaps that is how the "morbid obesity" "killed" him.

Thank you for including the section of the law that includes DIC claims. That is very helpful!

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