Coburn Amendment would strip Agent Orange presumptions

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Coburn Amendment would strip Agent Orange presumptions

 Vietnam veterans, through lawsuits brought by The American Legion and other groups in 1990, finally earned the right to service connection presumptively for those conditions rigorous scientific studies confirmed were associated with exposure to the toxic defoliant.  The Agent Orange Act of 1991 set the standard for determining those presumptive disabilities, a standard which has served as a benchmark for the last twenty years.  VA utilized this standard, after close and careful deliberation, to add certain conditions to the list of presumptive disabilities.  Now, with a broad, sweeping, cost cutting measure, Senator Coburn from Oklahoma would upset the scientific standard of the last two decades and replace it with a new and greatly more onerous standard, effectively closing the door on not just Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange, but potentially generations of veterans suffering from exposures in the Gulf War, and from Burn Pits in the War on Terror.

Just last year, The American Legion praised the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for adding three new conditions to the list of disorders presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange.  Then Commander Clarence Hill praised the decision last September at The American Legion Convention in Milwaukee, noting "VA is doing the right thing, and this is really going to be a great help to the many Vietnam veterans who've struggled for years to get recognition and treatment for these disorders..."

However, with an amendment proposed to a bill intended to provide funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Coburn means to upset the medical standards used to determine which conditions may be deemed associated with Agent Orange and thus compensated and treated by VA.  Coburn's amendment would change the governments current responsibility to make a determination about presumptive service connection from "a positive association" to the far more onerous standard of "causal relationship'.  Within medical research, this is a truly daunting standard indeed.

This has the potential to affect not only veterans of Vietnam stricken with Agent Orange related disorders, but veterans of other conflicts as well.  Researchers studying Gulf War related illnesses still struggle to find any exact causes, but cannot argue about the presence of symptoms and suffering.  Indeed with much medical research, while exact causes may prove baffling, associations between exposures and disorders however are readily recognized and are the medical standard.

The system already in place is based upon rigorous and sound science, and careful deliberation by unimpeachable sources such as the Institute for Medicine.  VA itself only makes their determination after close and careful review of the analysis provided by top scientific minds at IOM.

After years of obfuscation, denial and delays, to shift the government back onto footing to deny benefits to those suffering the effects of Agent Orange is unconscionable.

As VA faces challenging backlogs and caseloads over one million claims a year, presumptive disability decisions such as those utilized in the majority of Agent Orange related disability cases save the government not only time, but money.  The system as it stands is in a position to alleviate needless man hours tracking down exact exposure amounts and disease vectors.  When VA determines, after consulting with the strict scientific review provided by IOM that there is a positive association, they can dispense with unnecessary medical opinions which previously required hundreds of thousands of man hours by VA physicians. 

No matter how you look at it, this is a step back for Vietnam veterans to pre-1991 standards and The American Legion is not going to take this sitting down.  We led the fight before and we will always lead the fight to make sure the government does not forget its responsibilities to those who have served.

Coburn’s amendment to the MILCON bill comes on the heels of his proposed “Back in Black” plan to reduce the deficit.  The plan calls for increased medical fees for Priority Group 7 and 8 veterans in the VA Health Care system, with new fees of $250 a year as well as more than doubling the co-payments for prescriptions.  Other concerns in the plan include removing TRICARE Prime eligibility from certain retired military members and forcing them into plans with higher fees or driving them to seek insurance through other employers.

These veterans have more than paid for these benefits with their loyal service.  President Washington once noted "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." 

 The erosion of benefits and attempts to balance the budget directly on the backs of those who serve now and have served before will have a definite and detrimental effect on the willingness of future generations to make those sacrifices.

Posted in the burner | 13 comments
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Well this brings me back to my return from Vietnam. Had stones thrown at me and told I was a baby killer at the local University parties. Senator Coburn must have been in one of those groups of throwing stones and name calling. I will be calling my Senators in Delaware and also Senator Coburn office today.

I lost my husband to and Agent Orange disease. I'll keep up his fight for him and all others out there who served and were damaged by this horrible defolient. It will start with this then go on to Gulf war veterans. I too served 21 honorable years. We were just a bunch of lab rats to the government but by gosh, I'll fight to my dying breath. You darned right I'll be contacting my representatives. They probably have my photo on their wall already.

I was a proud American at one time, but have had the backs of our so called leaders turned on us so many times in the last few years, I,m almost ashamed to be an American now!! Maybe all the true American citizens should run the illegals out and when a senator leaves office or is run out before he is eligible for retirement at age 62, cut off his free monies till he reaches that age!! That would save as much as stopping veterans care, so we may even get more help that we deserve!!! I,m ready to do my part in any way to take back America before the Coburns of this once great nation ruin it completely!!!!

This situation is just one more skirmish in the never-ending battle by the Legion, VFW, and VVA for justice for vets with injuries that do not appear until long after they return from war. The government sends us off to fight, and then treats us as adversaries when we seek fair compensation for war wounds caused by things like Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome. Our vets' organizations will have to remain more vigilant than ever about this shameful situation as more and more troops return from the Middle East and Afghanistan with serious and expensive conditions such as brain injuries caused by shock waves from explosive devices. The sad truth is that many vets wounded on the battlefield find themselves fighting the US government after they return home rather than being treated with the respect and compassion they so richly deserve. I'll bet Coburn is a real flag-waver at patriotic events too: talk is cheap and hypocrisy stinks. They say that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and it is also the price vets have to pay in order to be treated half-way fairly by our esteemed leaders. I'm thankful that so many fine young men and women continue to sign up for our armed forces, but sometimes I honestly wonder why they do. Thank God for the Legion, VFW, and Vietnam Veterans of America!

I admit it, I benefited greatly from the last three Agent Orange accepted illnesses. And I live here in Oklahoma and Senator Coburn will not get my vote should he decide to run again. If his flawed bill were in place I would bankrupt and more than likely dead. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma does not go into remission in the form I have. Thanks to more forward thinking senators who defeated his poorly thought out bill.

God Bless all you Veterans who have been afflicted by Agent Orange.Lets keep the pressure on all our political representatives to guarantee that ANYONE touched by this horrible chemical will receive the necessary care and treatment to sustain a decent quality of life----GOD BLESS YOU ALL.


I guess I'm just wondering how the VA can "adjust" public law for its own benefit. The orginal public law allowed all Nam Vets compensation for exposure to dioxin ( Agent Orange) When the powers that be realizied they were admitting liability for the nightmare of contanination they turned loose in the lands and waters of the far east as well as other areas around the globe, the "BLUE WATER" Navy was excluded as well as the Cost Guard units that served, Merchant Marnie sailors ect. The VA claims that "NO DIOXIN WAS RELEASED TO COSTAL WATERS OF VIET NAM" So someone needs to explain to me "How can canals,streams, and rivers leading to the sea can undergo massive and years long exposure to over a total of 21,000,000 gallons of Agent Orange and none of it was run-off from the land mass of South-east Asia??????? Do the people in charge honestly believe we, the American people (and Vet's) are really so stupid, we fail to understand something so simple? All it really says is: GO SOMEWHERE AND DIE QUIETLY,PLEASE. YOU ARE UPSETTING THE NATURAL FLOW OF THINGS. YOU BLEED FOR THE UNITED STATES AND THEN GO AWAY, WE DON'T NEED YOU AFTER YOU'RE SICK. YOU ARE SOMEONE ELSE'S PROBLEM.

I remember I was in my 20's, flying a helicopter in RVN and had several missions spraying AO, was told it was just a herbiside and would not hurt us. Back then, no one ever said that flying a helicopter for hours on end would hurt our hearing, no earplugs required or provided. Thanks to the American Legion and their Service Officer I have medical care, and hearing aids provided by the VA. The VA clinic in my hometown, found my prostate cancer early and was able to put it in remission (6 yrs now).
The Sioux Falls Hospital is the best in the nation (Better than Walter Reed for sure) We get treated with RESPECT at this hospital, no more morning cattle calls, very few nasty employees, many are vets themselves now. Thanks to everyone who served in any war, we all deserve to be taken care of when the war caused us harm no matter how the harm was incurred.

Our elected officals are two faced and everyone knows what that means. I am a Vietnam Vet and proud of it.. If we want a balanced budget, Institute line Item veto for every bill and budget. Get ride of all these pork barrel spending items and we will balance the budget. Cutting the Military payscales will not work either. That did not work in the past and will not work in the future. You Washingtoni Politicans need to wakeup and smell the roses.

Coburn should be tried for treason, and part of his sentence should be having AGENT ORANGE sprayed on him once a day until he takes his last breath. As far as I'm concerned every living VIET-NAM Agent Orange exposed Vet sould be automatically receiving 100% disability pay the remainder of thier lives. What a shame that our VETS have to fight so hard to get what should automatically coming to them. I'm proud to say our Rep here in WV fights hard for our ALL our Veterans.

This ratbag Senator Coburn will be elected in a hands-down landslide because the people of Oklahoma
today, the majority being white, hold political leanings to the right of the Nazis. You Vietnam veterans
need to pull your heads outta your glory holes, especially you ass-clown right wing Vietnam veterans because the GOPers, and Teabaggers beholden to the Koch Bros. and the rest of the filthy rich have you veterans along with what remains of the middle class in their crosshairs. So keep fooling yourselves, put on your wife beaters, your scruffy bum looking leather jackets then mount up your morbidly obese butts and pot bellies on your Harleys and blast those pipes to the irritation of all the decent folk and continue to delude yourselves each election day voting for those big "R" candidates.
Our parents and grandparents generation, for all their faults, at least knew who the bad guys were.
We baby boomers have been fooled by the snake-oil GOPers. And when you look what's coming down the road with how the brain-dead Generation Xers have been bathing in the right-wing hate koolaid,
the future don't look good.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.