I have been in contact with members of other VP seaplane squadrons and we all have a common problem.
Here is an email I received from Bill Henson from VP50.
Recently one of our squadron mates who served a deployment in Cam Ranh Bay with VP-50 passed away. His widow is filing a claim with the VA due to his condition that may have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange. She had asked if there were any photos or documentation that would substantiate that he had “boots on the ground” to prove his exposure to Agent Orange. Talking with several guys who filed Agent Orange claims with the VA they indicated that the hardest part of filing their claim was providing the VA with the documentation the VA claim examiner, or the appeals adjudicator, requires. Not documenting the medical documentation, but the documentation needed to “prove” they were “boots on the grounds” in Vietnam.
I got to thinking about this as several of my Crew (Crew 8, VP-50) have had Agent Orange issues and filed VA Agent Orange claims. In each case, the issue was not substantiating the medical condition caused by Agent Orange exposure, but centered around if the person actually was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. After hearing from the widow. I started wondering what would constitute “proof” about our Vietnam service? We seaplane squadrons, VP-40, VP-48, and VP-50, may have this unique situation as our seaplanes were deployed to a Bay, not like aircraft that were assigned to an airfield.
What kind of records or other resources are available for members of VP-40, VP-48, and VP-50 to use to substantiate our “boots on the ground” in Vietnam? That is the question. Based on conversations, I and others in VP-50, VP-40 and VP-48, have had, it seems like each claimant needs to reinvent the wheel as there is no depository to access to find the substantiating information needed when filing a claim. All three squadrons have this common problem of proving our “boots on the ground” Vietnam service to the VA. We do know that a squadron cruise book has been used to substantiate an Agent Orange claim. Letters from crewmates have been used.
With your help all future shipmates, or their widows, will have a resource to assist in filing Agent Orange claims. We would like to pool our knowledge of Agent Orange claims filed by members of our 3 squadrons on what documentation was required to substantiate service in Vietnam, mainly when deployed to Cam Ranh Bay.
We would like to hear from you if you have filed a claim with the VA for an Agent Orange related condition what information and or documentation you provided to the VA that the VA accepted to substantiate you were in Vietnam with boots on the ground. In addition, would you be willing to be a resource to others who might file an Agent Orange claim in the future?
This common information would be posted on the the Mariner Marlin Association, VP-40 and VP-48 web sites, with each squadron’s or association permission. VP-40 and VP-48 have their own excellent squadron web sites. Both squadrons have done an excellent job in providing online cruise books, photos, etc., on their web sites. If you have the opportunity to go out and look at their web sites I would urge you do so. Guy Fisk, the web master of VP-40’s site at http://vp40.com/news/ , has created a “page” with links on how to file a VA claim and plans to add more Agent Orange information.
Again, any and all suggestions are welcome, especially for those who have filed Agent Orange claims with the VA.
Following is an email received from Jim Morgan who has been involved with our common effort to help one another if and when someone needs to file an Agent Orange VA claim with the VA:
In a message dated 7/13/2013 1:01:44 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, JKMORGAN@aol.com writes:
I think we have an opportunity to help our shipmates who flew Market Time Operation Patrol from Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam from 1965 through 1967 (Seaplanes and Tenders). (Ed. note: also 1968 and 1969).
1. We need to ask all of our MMA members who were TAD to Cam Ranh Bay to supply some basic information regarding Claims with the VA that have been Denied, Approved and Rated, or may be in progress.
We need the basics, no personal information beyond these Fields in a simple Excel database with some filters to sort by state, date, etc:
Last Name, First Name
City and State where Claims filed
Date of initial claims
Types of documentation used such as buddy letters, TAD orders, photographs, pay records
Approved and Rated
Settled in Court, Form 9 final appeal
With this information, we will be able to develop patterns of what States have approved more of our shipmates claims caused by Agent Orange exposure and which States have denied Claims for Agent Orange exposure as a percentage of overall Claims.
I believe we can summarize such a simple database and then involve the US Congress and the Veterans Administration leadership.
I am concerned that many of us are being denied and pushed away from valuable benefits simply based on where we live, perhaps due to a quota system. In my case, Florida. I think this is THE most difficult Veterans Administration Regional Office which is located in St. Petersburg, Florida (Bay Pines).
It would be great if we could have something pulled together for the next Reunion and have a Congressman in that State present to hold a Town Hall Meeting of our Vets and take the message to the VA along with our Database and summary. We should not be forgotten!
I know that we have many ways to cut this hog up, but we should apply a unified force at this time because each of us has gone our own way with less than fair results.
Willing to help this cause, just need the MMA leadership to confirm a cause and direction or approach. We LEGAL help…. some of our shipmates may be Attorneys. particularly some of the Officers.
I can put a shell database together (flat file) in Excel for review, edits, etc. I use Excel 2007.
Thanks for listening,
I will be sending this request to all members of VP40. In addition I will create an Excel spreadsheet for your use to tell us about your experiences with dealing with this problem. It will be posted on this web site. If you were in Viet Nam during 1965-1969 with one of our VP squadrons or on a seaplane tender,
and think you might qualify for Agent Orange benefits I have some info on our site to help you in filing. After we compile the records from VP40, VP50, VP48, VP47 we will publish our findings and MAYBE
our fellow VP members can get the VA benefits we deserve, no matter WHAT state we live in. Bruce Barth has been helping some of our members in the past and he will help in this effort also. Anyone else is welcome to join the cause.
If you agree with this cause, please leave a comment on this subject here for others to read and respond.
much more to follow in the future