To whom it may concern,
My name is Allyson Burnett and I am writing on behalf of my father, Matthew. He is a gulf war Navy veteran and now terminally ill due to chemicals he was exposed to during his service. He has been battling the VA now for almost eight years trying to get service connection. It now seems that, after getting in touch with Secretary Shinseki to seek help with the matter, his claim has been patently denied by appeals management. It is out of their jurisdiction to deny his claim, especially after the judge that heard the case wrote a decision which stated “I find no evidence on which to base a denial”. That being said; the law which governs VA policy specifically states “in the absence of contradictory evidentiary information, the Veterans Administration is bound to find on behalf of the service member.” Having been remanded to the appeals management center for “further development”, it was not the mission of AMC to “approve or deny” his claim, only to further develop and prepare his case for the ratings board. It seems odd to me that after naming names to Secretary Shinseki himself, my father’s case was almost immediately denied after having sat dormant at AMC for nearly two years. Part of the dormancy is AMC’s ineptitude to accomplish their own mission goals. For instance, for over a year they have been asking for his military files from the Department of the Navy. AMC has stated after multiple queries that said records are “unavailable for review”. However, with a single phone call to NPRC records custodians, my father was told that the chain of custody showed those records already at AMC. My father finds it more than coincidental, even retaliatory, that these actions took place so quickly after contact from the Secretary’s office. To date, my father has provided scientific evidence that links the chemical use to his illness. He has also provided medical evidence, sworn affidavits provided by service members who had first hand knowledge of his use of the chemicals, and case studies and reports from both CDC and NIOSH which show the adverse health effects from the use of those chemicals. He has even provided a medical opinion from one of the VA’s own doctors linking his condition to his service, though it was apparently not written in plain enough English for the people AMC. How is it that after nearly eight years and with more than enough evidence to rule the claim in my father’s favor, the people at AMC are still sitting on their thumbs trying to deny him what he is owed? How is it that after ten years in the service, my father can be treated like a leper? I will tell you first hand that my father is, without a shred of doubt, the hardest working and most honest person I have ever known. He is not simply seeking compensation out of laziness or lack of wanting to work. My father used to THRIVE on work, and now he can barely even walk. He suffers from scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and reynauds and is considered terminally ill at only 47 years of age. He recently added amputee to his list after having two fingers removed due to complications of RA. I am 23 years old and have dedicated my time to taking care of my father since he fell ill when I was in high school. I did not get to attend college, nor did I even get to finish high school. I will never get to earn a degree or work a “real job” because all of my time and attention is focused on taking care of my father. Do you know what it feels like knowing your father won’t be there to walk you down the aisle on your wedding day? What it’s like knowing that the person you love most in this world won’t get to see you succeed and grow as a person? I do, and it’s heartbreaking. This situation has put a great strain on the personal lives of everyone in this family. I watch my father fade away in front of me every single day, trying to come to terms with how I’m going to survive when he is gone. I watch the man that used to stand so tall and proud sink into depression before my very eyes. This battle with a very corrupt VA has gone on for too long. The stress of this fight makes my father’s health condition worsen which each letter and phone call from them. I’d like to make it very clear that I am not just seeking justice for my father, but for ALL veterans that are in the same boat, so to speak. It is so disheartening to know that government is turning their backs on the people that fought for the freedom of this country, on the men and women that risked their lives so we could live in a safe and somewhat peaceful environment. It is NOT ok to string their cases along without resolution just waiting for them to pass away so the VA never has to take responsibility for what they’ve done. MY FATHER IS DYING AND I DO NOT APPRECIATE SUCH HEARTLESS AND DISTASTEFUL BEHAVIOR FROM THOSE THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SETTING AN EXAMPLE. I do not appreciate the cold and callous attitudes of those that work for the VA, nor do I appreciate the fact that the stress from trying to get this case handled is KILLING my father. He no longer has the strength to fight this battle himself, and I am more than happy to take it on. I will not stop until my father’s story is heard and he gets the justice he so rightfully deserves. AMC has had more than enough time and been given more than enough proof and evidence to rule my father’s case in his favor. At this point, after their retaliatory actions, I feel that I have no choice than to expose this story and the VA’s corruption to the media. Especially after President Obama made such a push for change, promising help for veterans everywhere. The veterans aren’t getting any help. They are left to die because the VA cannot seem to stand up and do what is right. We have sat in the dark and kept our mouths shut long enough and it is time that these stories see the light of day. It only takes ONE person from the media to help set things straight and make a difference in thousands of veteran’s lives.
Allyson N. Burnett