RANGER AGAINST WAR: Being Presumptuous <

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being Presumptuous

--Bill Mauldin

Time is on my side, yes it is
Time is on my side, yes it is
--Time is on My Side,

The Rolling Stones

You're in the Army now,

You're not behind a plow;

You'll never get rich,

You son-of-a-bitch

--You're in the Army Now

What am I now that I was then?

Time is the school in which we learn,

Time is the fire in which we burn.

--Calmly We Walk Through This April Day,

Delmore Schwartz


DAV Magazine (May/June) reports, "New 'Presumptive' Illness Proposal for Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans":

"In a long overdue decision affecting veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs has moved to grant presumptive service connection [SC] for nine illnesses, making it much easier for those veterans to obtain health care and disability compensation."

"The National Academy of Sciences [NAS] Gulf War and Health report recommended in October 2006 that the VA establish new presumptions of service connection for brucellosis,
Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetti (Q fever), malaria, mycobacterium tuberculosis, non-typhoid Salmonella, shigella, visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile Virus.

"The proposed federal rule authorizing the presumptions cover the nine diseases associated with military in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War, or in Afghanistan on or after 10/19/01. It includes all veterans of Iraq since Operation Desert Shield.Desert Storm in 1990."

The reason for this piece is twofold: To inform former soldiers of these developments and to discuss Black Ops and presumptive ailments. [Previous posts
Nuts and Double Jeopardy discussed the CRSC issue.]

The Special operations community takes great pride in being special, but they often forget that even tabbed-up soldiers may find themselves in the beaten zone of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This same DAV issue highlights the fact that the VA
routinely takes an adversarial stance in veteran's appeals:

"In recent oral arguments at the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed shock at the government's admission that in litigating with veterans about their benefits, VA routinely takes a position that is unjustified. In other words, the government sometimes makes veterans jump through hoops to obtain benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of their service" (Some Veterans Given Runaround at BVA and CAVC).

You're in the Army now.

Though the DVA was tasked to help vets prove their claims, the reality is often the opposite. The DVA has historically been a stonewalling agency that blocks veterans efforts to gain compensation for their service connected conditions by requiring them to provide often difficult to obtain medical evidence to prove their claim of service connection.

How do Special Operators prove that they were even on such a mission, in such a country, when all records of the activity are classified and sterilized?
Black Ops types are cool, until they must prove their exposure to an illness-causing agent that occurred in that secret realm.

Let us say you were on a Top Secret assignment to Gitmo and you contract mycobacterium TB from a prisoner, or anything else from anywhere else in the Third World.
Or your Q fever goes away, but not really, and 20 years later you're facing organ failure? Sand-borne infectious agents abound, many activating only after years of service. What then?

These same soldiers will be facing other compensation issues. They may have to do battle with the DA to receive Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC), an arcane process with many hoops to jump.
What if you are ill and cannot jump very well?

To receive CRSC one must apply through HQDA and have a service connected DVA SC condition that fulfills Army guidelines as Combat Related. This is difficult, as the DVA does not address the concept of "Combat Related", nor are they legally required to do so.

The Army applies a harsh yardstick, and neither gives the applicant any presumptions nor accepts sworn testimony from vets or witnesses. Only official documents are accepted -- a Catch-22 if you were on a mission that didn't exist on the books.

Ranger's case is typical, and involved Lieutenant Colonel Fred Sisson, Officer in Charge of the DA program. The issue was the infamous crushed testicle operated on in theatre at the 24th Evac Hospital, whose records had long since been deep-sixed.

The crushing occurred in a Stabo Rig in RVN, fitting all definitions of combat related
ness. No records, so LTC Sisson refused combat relatedness -- and yet there you have the thing, incurred while SF, Infantry, drawing combat pay and on jump status! Was there another explanation for entering the country with uncrushed testes and leaving with one squashed, and it NOT be combat or training-related?
(Ranger was not a bronco-rider.)

Next was my bilateral tinnitus, again denied as being combat-related by Sisson due to lack of documentation. However, ear damage -- and tinnitus, in particular -- are common combat related conditions. One can get tinnitus from high blood pressure, nerve damage or exposure to blast and gunfire, engine noise and all the classic combat arms stuff.

It was incumbent upon me to seek out an audiologist at Shands Hospital specializing in tinnitus to confirm my condition was blast-related. LTC Sisson then conceded the point, assigning combat
relatedness --
but why the exercise in futility? If one has tinnitus and a combat arms background, the DA should presumptively grant the award.

Finally, my neck injury from parachute whiplash. My cervical spinal damage was not accepted as parachute related, though the DVA rated it as SC. Talk about a verbal whiplash! How would one injure one's neck as an airborne infantryman? Duh! Duh to all but LTC Sisson, that is, who refused to accept the damage as combat related/realistic training related.

Fortuitously, I found a sick slip in my records from 1979 indicating an airborne connection, and once again Sisson awarded the correct relatedness adjudication. But why the battle? Who has sick slips from 1979?

If not for the slips of paper and savvy specialists, my word as an officer seems to have no value to the CRSC staff. Benefit decisions do not favor the position of the veteran.

Please don't disregard this as the writings of an old disaffected trooper. Apply my lessons to your life and career. When injured have your medical personnel clearly state that your condition is combat related or from realistic combat-related training.

Do not trust fate or the Army to serve your best interests 25 years down the road. Army loyalty doesn't stretch that far. My experiences with the DVA and DA CRSC are not exceptional but are tediously average. If you don't believe me, talk with another wounded old soldier.

Not only must you be a good soldier,
but you must be a good record keeper documenting your career. If you fail to do so, you will pay the price.

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Anonymous RangerHazen said...

I guess I am one of the lucky ones...I just received a 70% disability rating from the DVA for injuries sustained during ADT back in 1988...To make a long story short I had sworn written testimony and most of my original records including the jump manifest and hospital records. I should be interviewing for a job with the DAV as an advocate in the next week or so and I am also eligible for Education Benefits. I hear horror stories all the time about the disability claim process but the Disabled American Veterans Association really helped me out and my claim was settled in less than 6 months. I highly recommend them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 2:24:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ranger Hazen,
The DAV is a fine organization and they helped me on more than one occasion.
I routinely give to their cause.
I'm rated 100% for one condition , and this was won with DAV support. Imagine that a word like WON must be used to describe the butt fuck that is disability determination.
In addition i have 50% physical damage which while rated was also won thru continous admin hassles.
The CRSC wrangling was just another way for the Army to say-THANKS FOR COMING.Asshole.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What about me?

Vietnam 67-68

Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 11:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Serving Patriot said...


By simply writing about your travails, and giving sound advice, you are serving our new veterans coming home banged up and often broken.



Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 4:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

That's the ONLY reason that i write this stuff, which easily goes beyond absurdity.
Unlike most retirees, i just can't adopt a - i got mine attitude.
We must mentor these guys even if they don't like our antiwar stance. Correction-my antiwar stance, i don't want to get you to draw fire.

Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:02:00 AM GMT-5  

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