It’s a day of picnics, patriotic parades, ball games, a night of concerts and fireworks, and a reason to proudly fly the American flag. A day we celebrate the rights of all Americans, and the protection we share under our constitution.
This July 1st, I received a final denial from the Department of Labor, for my claim filed under the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) for Workers Compensation for exposure to Agent Orange.
All of my governmental options have now been painstaking pursued, every avenue exhausted, with all possible solutions followed to a failed, and heartbreakingly disappointed conclusion.
Many of you have been following my story here at Salem-News.com and on my website, alossofinnocence.com. I deeply thank each and every one of you, wholeheartedly, for your support and dedication to my fight these past two years. I take this time and opportunity to update you.
On December 13, 1967, Memo “53” was written as part of the FECA PROGRAM. It determined, “Gratuitous Entertainers With The Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program Overseas would be “employees” for the purposes of the FECA and, while on tour with the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program Overseas, would be entitled to benefits under the Act in the event of death or disability.”
This memo written so long ago, qualified me as a Federal Employee. I had traveled with the USO in 1970 to Vietnam as part of a morale boosting non-entertaining troupe during Christmastime as an eighteen-year-old young girl. Our purpose was visiting with, and bringing support to our soldiers during an active time of war. While in country I was repeatedly exposed to the deadly and carcinogenic herbicide Agent Orange.
As the years passed, two of the VA Presumptive Diseases (both deadly cancers) caused by Agent Orange exposure were quietly and silently developing in my body. These cancers were taking over my life forces. Having met the Department of Veterans Administration criteria, I would easily qualify for compensation, benefits and care. There would be no dispute of causal connection if I had been a veteran. It would never be an issue.
In contrast to the VA, under the FECA Act, a federal employee “has the burden of establishing the essential elements of the claim (herbicide exposure), including that he sustained an injury while in the performance of duty and that he had disability as a result.”
In straight words, the burden of proof lies with the federal employee and it is impossible to prove. The bar is set so high and artificially it would be impossible to meet.
Case closed. Appeal denied.
Those of you who have supported me know I am an optimist and a fierce fighter! I have carried no hatred, bitterness or negative energy into this battle. I do not believe it would have changed the outcome. It would only have changed the outcome of “me.” I never would be willing to make that sacrifice as well.
To each and every veteran I met along the way that supported me, thank you. To those who posted my articles, listed my website address on their sites, and gave me a voice, thank you.
To the many Americans who took the time from their busy “multi tasking” lives to write, thank you.
To the Salem-News.com team, who gave me a forum, thank you. To friends, old and new, who encouraged me to keep going, thank you. To Colonel David W. Sutherland, Special Assistant, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a special thank you for his devotion and belief in justice. To LCDR Kim Mitchell, USN, and all “my new beloved family” at the Warrior and Family Support Office, my heartfelt thanks for always trying and never giving up!
To my dearest husband, Arnie, for always believing in the fight and the justice of its pursuit.
Endlessly rooting me on, dabbing at my tears, always laughing at my jokes, and loving me “just because,” — not because he has to!
The bureaucratic fight may be over. But, my fight never will be.
Article originally Published at Salem-News.com