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Vietnam Veteran’s America
See our heroes of today, homeless, hungry, in pain, and suffering. Thousands of Veterans are there, their hopes snuffed out by a Veterans Administration that is bogged down, understaffed, untrained, and has a poor attitude towards the job they attempt to perform. This is the Vietnam Veteran’s America, the country they fought for, bled for, and often died for. After Vietnam, veterans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, Agent Orange afflictions, diseases, and have families that do not have enough money to bury them, and then there’s the Veteran’s Administration that does not care.
Believe this is not happening? Believe that this country has not turned it’s back of our Veterans? Then think again. Story after story, day after day, month after month, year after year Veteran’s wait in line, their hopes diminished, the Veteran’s Administration denies their claims, hoping they give up, or die.
Within most large cities is a Veteran’s Administration Regional Office, such as the Regional Office in Phoenix, Arizona. Hundreds of claims are processed there; very few are approved at the initial level. The reason? The Veteran will give up, will not wish to keep up the years of fighting it takes to get their claim approved, or they die before it happens. When a claim is submitted, there is already a problem with the Veteran. He is suffering from Agent Orange Exposure, Post-Traumatic Stress, or even worse. In other words he is dying, fast or slow, but dying. Yet it can take up to eight years for a claim to be approved, eight years. Does anyone actually believe it takes eight years to approve a claim? Generally, it takes over a year just to get to the first level. Then, it takes another year or so to appeal. Finally, the Veteran has to go to court which takes another year or so, sometimes much more. All this time the Veteran has to collect information on his own even though it’s the law the Veterans Administration must help, they rarely do. Further, the Veteran has to pay for medical expenses, over and over, for the Regional Office keeps sending letters, wanting more information, over and over it happens, each and every month.
When I filed for Post-Traumatic Stress resulting from my tour in Vietnam, I filed it with the Phoenix Regional Office. I went over a year gathering information and medical treatment, each time paying a portion of it. Month after month the Regional Office would ask for more information and when receiving it would lose the paperwork. Over six times they misfiled, misplaced, or simply lost the necessary paperwork to proceed with my claim. Over twelve times I asked them for help in obtaining records. Not once were they successful or even attempted to find the things needed. Yet, the law states that the Regional Office is required to assist the Veteran in obtaining information. Citation Nr: 0313595-decision date 06/23/03, docket 92-22.
Further, the Regional Office in first denying my claim stated that they agree I am suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress; yet, there is no military records proving of my stressors. This was untrue since I had Internet articles and a letter from a person, and an appeals court decision all from people that were at the same unit, the same time, and place I was during the Vietnam War. The Regional Office was required to take my testimony on faith if there was not a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. 38 U.S.C.A. 5107 (West Supp. 2001) 38 C.F.R. 3.102 (2001). In Gilbert v Derwinski, 1 Vet App 49, 53 (1990) the Court stated that “a veteran need only demonstrate there is an approximate balance of positive and negative evidence in order to approve the claim.
After two years of obtaining information, records, and medical evidence, the Regional Office in Phoenix did not follow the law and initially denied the claim, which is only one example of their lack of knowledge and assistance provided. Again, this is only one example of what the Phoenix Regional Office does; there are hundreds of cases that fall into this category.
This is the country in which Vietnam Veterans live. At the end of the Vietnam War and upon returning home, Vietnam Veterans were scourged and tainted. Today we continue to be denied our due rights, hoping we will give up the fight, or die before we can receive assistance.
It is time for every American to come to the assistance of it’s Veterans. Call your Congressman today and demand that the Veteran’s Administration start treating people correctly. It is only right that the ones that suffered most are treated with respect and dignity. Today, this is not the case.
Joe W. Hillyer
Captain, U.S. Army
Author: Book: Texas Fact & Fable (http://www.publishamerica.com), plus magazine articles.
B.S. Degree East Texas Baptist University
Pastor, United Methodist Church
E-Mail: vets. for justice. com