Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ft. McClellan Veteran Takes Case to Washington

Whatever comes into our lives, it leaves us with choices. Do we pick ourselves up and move on, or do we reach back after others and help them? Most of the people involved with fighting for veterans are either veterans themselves or personally connected to them. In my case, I was born into it and married into it. In the case of Captain Agnes “Irish” Bresnahan, in her own struggle for justice, she reached back to help other veterans.

Captain Agnes M Bresnahan I came here today to a...
source of exposure identified as Fort McClellan, Alabama. Fort Ritchie,. Maryland and Fort Drum, NY have also been identified as Agent Orange

It began with Fort McClellan veterans, then female veterans leading into all veterans. She has been a tireless fighter for their rights even while she has been seeking justice for herself. Irish has traveled to Washington several times and testified before Congress, but now she will be traveling for her own hearing on her claim that has been tied up for years. It's been one thing after another, one excuse after another for what was caused by her willingness to serve the country.

February 20, 2009

On behalf of Captain “Irish” Agnes Bresnahan I made my personal journey to Washington DC today to hand deliver the video DVD historical story of Captain Bresnahan; Her chemical exposure service related illness to herbicides – Agent Orange.

DVD copies were delivered to Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Chairman – Congressman Bob Filner, California.

Subcommittee for the House on Veterans Affairs, Chairman,
Congressman John Hall, NY - Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona.

Also to Congressman Steve Kagen M.D.

These congressional representatives in Washington are the first ever to have the opportunity to know this historical case of Captain Bresnahan’s exposure to chemical herbicides on U.S soil at Ft. McClellan Alabama 1971 – 1977.

It is now up to these congressional representatives to respond and take an action to correct the injustices exposed in this story to Captain Bresnahan for her and for all Vietnam Veterans exposed to chemical herbicides, state-side, in the Republic of Vietnam, or any other place while in military service serving the United States of America.

Do we get a response?

Carlo Albanese

There are many times when our elected representatives go to Washington, get their names in the news for what they do, but hardly ever have what they do not do publicized. Ignorance may be bliss, but in the cases of our veterans and the way they get treated, it's also deadly. I can't remember how many times I was on the phone with Irish and she was telling me about one more knife in her back regarding her claim or the countless other cases of other veterans seeking justice.

When we hear the word "justice" that is really all these veterans want. They don't want handouts. They don't want free rides and they don't want to take anything they is not required because whatever is wrong with them has been caused by their service to the nation. It's as simple as that. I'm not talking about the frauds running around managing to get what they did not earn. Thankfully those cases are very few while the vast majority are veterans forced by circumstances to begin to regret they served. Even with that regret, these men and women would do it all over again no matter how they were treated.

Washington's quote about how we treat veterans was also a warning.

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

We do not treat them right. We train them to do their "jobs" and give them what they need to do those jobs. In the civilian world, workers are trained, but if they end up getting hurt on the job, workman's compensation reimburses them for lost income. In the military world, the DOD and the VA are supposed to reimburse them for lost income if they are hurt because they served. That's what too many people miss.

If we are placed in dangerous situations, OSHA steps in to make sure employers are doing the right thing. If servicemen are placed in dangerous situations, it's just taken for granted. Doesn't matter that chemicals they are exposed to destroy the rest of their lives as well as their family members. They have to take their cases one by one to the DOD and the VA as if they are the only one affected instead of the DOD contacting all veterans they know were exposed. They have records of who was exposed and should automatically compensate them the way justice demands.

If we are exposed to sexual assaults, law enforcement steps in and the perpetrator goes on trial and then jail. In the military, the victim is blamed and the perpetrator is transferred, much like the Catholic priest accused of sexual assaults on children were simply transferred from one parish to another.

If we are exposed to sexual harassment, again it is considered illegal and the perpetrators are punished. Yet again in the military it happens all the time and is viewed as just part of the culture.

If we are injured on the job because it's part of our job to be in dangerous positions, such as law enforcement or fire departments, we are compensated for the incomes we can no longer earn. Yet if servicemen are injured on their jobs, they have to fight longer and harder to have their cases resolved.

When it comes to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, civilians are taken care of a lot faster with Social Security Disability, private disability insurance, workman's compensation and their medical insurance pays to have them treated. When it comes to the DOD and the VA, they are required to not only prove they were where the traumatic events happened, they were injured by the event, they also have to prove it couldn't have occurred for any other reason. When they finally do have their case approved for compensation, they are hardly ever presented with the full compensation they should received and then must fight all over again to prove they should receive more.

Supposedly the DOD and the VA are so appreciative of the men and women willing to serve this nation, they "take care of their own" but if "their own" end up disabled, they are no longer one of them but belong to someone else and become the "issue" of someone else. In other words, someone else's problem.

Rank and file become veterans and end up taking care of their own against the leaders they thought they could trust with their lives once their lives were no longer of service to them. It's wrong and has been wrong for too many generations. Washington would have never accepted any of the conditions the rest of us expect the members of the military to tolerate. After all, we don't when it comes to civilian life but we expect them to tolerate it when they return to civilian life no matter what they carry with them.

Pray for Irish that justice for her will lead to justice for all Fort McClellan veterans and every other veteran forced to fight the nation they risked their lives for.

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