- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My name is Don, and I live Oregon. I have an issue that I see as an injustice, and I am hoping you can help me or at least give me some guidance and direction.

I was in the Air Force and stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines from March 1969 through June 1970. While there, I was a C-130 aircraft assistant crew chief in the 463rd Organizational Maintenance Squadron. Our mission was to support the combat effort in Vietnam. On several occasions, I was sent to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, on temporary duty for up to 60 days. While there, I was exposed to Agent Orange. I have had some issues that fall under the presumptive problems caused by Agent Orange. As I prepared to sign up for the registry, I got out my DD Form 214 and noticed that the Air Force had neglected to include my Vietnam Service Medal as well as a host of other medals earned.

I filed an application for correction of military record to the Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center on Sept. 2. In this application I provided:

c A TDY (temporary duty) Order sending me to Cam Ranh Bay on June 20, 1969, for 15 days.

c An Airman Performance Report dated Nov. 30, 1969, praising me for my work while at Cam Ranh Bay and commending me for my volunteer service at a Vietnamese orphanage while I was there. This was an official document signed by my supervisor.

c I also provided an Air Force Certificate for income-tax adjustment for being in a combat zone during the period of October through December 1969.

c Finally, I provided a combat loss form from when my tools were lost on a plane that was shot down over Vietnam on June 23, 1969. I have official Air Force orders assigning me to that plane during that time period.

Last week I received a letter back from the Air Force saying that it “could not provide any document that substantiated service in Vietnam for any time period.”

I was floored. I had provided the Air Force with all kinds of official substantiated documents.

I even have a photograph of a much younger me standing in front of the Vietnam war memorial statue in Saigon in uniform. This statue was torn down when Saigon fell to the communists. I also have numerous letters that I sent to my mother from Vietnam.

My old supervisor from Clark and Vietnam said he and several other 463rd supervisors would sign an affidavit for me if needed it, but I would think that I have plenty of evidence already. Is there a real human out there in the bureaucracy who will listen to reason?

The proof that I was in Vietnam could mean a lot to my family financially in the future. I took an Agent Orange physical in Hillsboro on Oct. 21, and the results showed an elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) reading of 8.6. Prostate cancer is a presumptive condition caused by Agent Orange. My son was also born with a serious heart defect - another presumptive condition caused by Agent Orange.

I served 91/2 years on active duty in the Air Force. I’m not asking for much in return, only the truth. Can you help me? - Don T., Oregon

Dear Don,

I received the following response regarding your query from the powers that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs: “If the veteran has copies of TDY orders to RVN (the Republic of Vietnam), performance evaluations referring to service in RVN, and photos of himself in front of a famous Saigon statue, then there is no doubt that this verifies service/visitation in RVN and eligibility for herbicide related presumptive diseases. Make sure that he submits them with his application for benefits.

“However, VA has no influence over the Department of the Air Force when it comes to awarding a post-service Vietnam Service Medal.

“Additionally, regarding service connection for herbicide-related presumptive diseases, although the veteran is eligible, an elevated PSA reading is not sufficient for service connecting prostate cancer without a medical diagnosis of the disease itself. The veteran will have to undergo an exam. Also, while a great number of child birth defects may lead to eligibility for VA benefits if the parent is a female with service in Vietnam, only spina bifida in the children of male veterans with Vietnam service can lead to benefits eligibility. Therefore, the heart birth defect in the child of this veteran cannot lead to VA benefits eligibility.”

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in congratulating the House and Senate conferees for approval of the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Bill, which includes $109.6 billion for 2010 projects and programs crucial for our nation’s veterans and their families, plus $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for veterans’ medical care during fiscal 2011.

“The conference report provides the vital funding needed to care for our nation’s veterans in 2010 and 2011,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. “The importance of this funding cannot be understated as thousands of our nation’s service members are being deployed to Afghanistan beginning this month.”

“Thanks to the wisdom of our elected representatives, the Department of Veterans Affairs will be prepared to meet the needs of our nation’s veterans when they return home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said DAV National Commander Roberto “Bobby” Barrera. “It is regrettable that it took Congress 10 weeks into the new fiscal year to pass the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Bill.”

c Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

The appropriations bill includes $109.6 billion for 2010 projects and programs crucial for our nation’s veterans and their families, plus $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for veterans’ medical care during fiscal 2011.

or

The appropriations bill includes $109.6 billion for 2010 projects and programs crucial for our nation’s veterans and their families, plus $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal 2011.

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