Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Two Marine Veterans Unite Decades Later to Win VA Appeals for Exposure to Agent Orange in Subic Bay, Philippines
Neither of these Marines could have foreseen that their paths would cross again stateside. Neither man at their time of service was aware that the liquid stored in those barrels was Agent Orange. Complicating matters, while the VA has admitted that Agent Orange can cause devastating diseases, including the diabetes suffered by these two ex-Marines, the agency has mandated that veterans must either have served in Vietnam or have had direct exposure to Agent Orange to claim benefits--a difficult thing to prove. Given that neither Cintron nor Hernandez had ever served in Vietnam, their cases rested upon the direct exposure connection. Somehow, contrary to the government's assertion, Agent Orange did end up in storage barrels in Subic Bay, Philippines. But how did it get there, who knew about it, and what could be done to prove it to the government? The veterans had their work cut out for them. Without new and material evidence that placed the storage of Agent Orange in Subic Bay during their service, the two cases were closed for good.
The burden of proving exposure to Agent Orange lies with the victim. Though lay testimony is gaining acceptance before the VA--particularly in cases of combat veterans or victims of military sexual trauma--a victim's statement alone is generally not enough to prove the occurrence of an incident in service. Attorneys who advocate for veterans often rely upon the detective work of their clients to investigate their past service and uncover new and material evidence that can be used to reopen their cases. That's where the power of the buddy network comes into play.
The cases of Cintron and Hernandez shared three important circumstances of service--time, duty, and location. To find in favor of one veteran in terms of direct exposure would be to find in favor of the other, given that the two veterans were similarly situated individuals. Both veterans conceded to the Board that, at the time of their service, they did not know the contents of the barrels with an orange stripe contained Agent Orange. It was only later that each read an online VA fact sheet which indicated that barrels such as those they had witnessed did contain Agent Orange. And, thus, the investigation began. These two men who were there for each other as Marines had come full circle to support each other as veterans decades later.
Continue Learning: http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2013/07/09/559030/10039531/en/Two-Marine-Veterans-Unite-Decades-Later-to-Win-VA-Appeals-for-Exposure-to-Agent-Orange-in-Subic-Bay-Philippines.html
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