VA Denies Service Connection
The majority of the veterans we work with have had service connection" to their illnesses denied by the V.A.
When service connection is denied veterans and their families do not receive the help, benefits and support they so desperately need and deserve.
The CFR's were written at a time when concerns such as "chemical exposure" were virtually unheard of. The follow two CFR’s are the ones that every veteran we are aware of has received as the primary reason for their claim denial:
38CFR3.309 Disease subject to presumptive service connection deals mostly with the following categories: chronic disease, tropic disease, diseases specific to radiation (during WWII) and diseases with certain herbicide agents (during Viet Nam). There are no parameters that fit the situation of the burn pits or other chemical exposures our veterans today may face.
38CFR3.307 also deals primarily with the above issues. It too, fails to address issues facing veterans dealing with modern chemical exposure.
Movement in a Positive Direction
The VA recently send out a Training Letter regarding Environmental Hazards in Iraq Afghanistan and Other Military Installations in which they acknowledge "Service members can be exposed to environmental hazards in the course of their military duties, which may result in adverse health effects."
We are thrilled to see the VA recognize and begin responding to this issue and we believe this "Training Letter" is definitely a step in the right direction.
Who Is at Fault?
We know that the employees of the V.A, are caring people. We do not believe there is some ogre in the VA basement denying our veterans warranted and desperately needed services. We believe that the VA is overwhelmed and has not yet had the chance to do the necessary revisions.
Public and political support is critical to our cause. We need to be the squeaky wheel!
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been actively involved in this issue from the beginning both by actively lobbying for legislation and testifying before Senate as well as helping affected veterans deal with their VA claims.
The DAV will help veterans with their cllaims and to fight unjust denials free of charge. In 88 offices throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico, the DAV employs a corps of approximately 260 National Service Officers (NSOs) who represent veterans and their families with claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
Please read the DAV's excellent e-article, Burn Pits: Toxic exposures impact Iraq, Afghanistan veterans, families and survivors. This article appeared on the front page of DAV's October 2010 magazine.
Legistlation in Process - We Need More!
The National Defense Authorization Act - H.R. 2647 has been signed into law. It included important provisions to protect the thousands of troops exposed to open, toxic burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have sickened hundreds of troops. These provisions were based on the Military Personnel War Zone Toxic Exposure Prevention Act, (HR 2419) introduced May 14, 2009 by Bishop and Shea-Porter.