- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Is there an appeal going on by the Veterans Administration on the Haas v. Nicholson court ruling? If so, what’s the latest?

My first claim for service-connected disability compensation based on my Vietnam service-acquired diabetes was denied. It was reopened and, currently, the VA is awaiting guidance from the Department of the Veterans Affairs general counsel before it can take action on my claim. The VA is staying on my claim in spite of my claims that my “boots were on the ground” several times during the course of my eight years (on and off) in Vietnam, including receipt of Meritorious Unit commendation as a crew of a ship that operated in the coastal and offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam for almost nine months.

My question now is: How can I prove to the VA that I set foot in Vietnam?

What kind of pictures are they looking for? I have one that was taken inside a hotel and the guy who took it wrote on the back of the picture in 1967 that it was taken at the Nha Thrang hotel in Vietnam. Will this suffice?

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

Nick

More than a Blue Water Vet

Dear Nick:

The apparatchiks at the VA tell me that all of these claims have been stayed while Justice pursues an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The opinion on the evidence part of the question, however, is that if the veteran can demonstrate that he “stepped foot” in Vietnam, even for one day, then he has established service that meets the criteria for consideration of presumptive service connection under Title 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6) for conditions outlined under Title 38 CFR 3.309(e).

Service in Vietnam under the provision of Title 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6) includes “service in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.”

Without actually reviewing the body of evidence in your particular case, I would not want to provide a definitive answer regarding the probative value of the evidence you cited. That is the responsibility of a VA employee tasked with evaluating a veteran’s claim. However, given the facts and evidence as presented, verification of qualifying service should be pursued and not stay the adjudication of this particular claim.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to joining press club members, guests and the public at a National Press Club luncheon featuring good friend and fellow combat Marine veteran Virginia Sen. James H. Webb Jr., whose upset victory over George Allen helped the Democrats take control of the Senate.

He will speak on the war in Iraq and what he calls the growing economic divide in America. Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, delivered the highly praised Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. Mr. Webb, the author of several widely acclaimed books, has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq since before the invasion. The event will be Thursday.

• An attaboy to Health Net Federal Services (HFNS) for its support of the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s first Vocational Employment Counseling Center for veterans with spinal-cord injuries, which will open this year in its Richmond office.

This center, the first of its kind, is the result of a private-public partnership between PVA and Health Net Federal Services. HNFS has committed $200,000 over two years to fund the center’s operational budget and hire a rehabilitation vocational specialist, a counselor who specializes in rehabilitative counseling and support for veterans with spinal-cord injuries.

Beyond standard interest surveys and aptitude testing, veterans will examine the affect on their financial benefits, whether they can continue their previous careers with additional resources or whether they are starting over.

Employers are gainfully rewarded as well, because they’re getting someone who’s been paralyzed and is back out there dealing with the world mentally, emotionally and psychologically.

With program growth and success, PVA will look at expanding this specialized program to support additional veterans with spinal-cord injuries in other locations. For more information, please call PVA at 800/424-8200.

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

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