Claiborne vets officer: ‘big win on local agent orange appeal’

A local Army veteran has succeeded where many others have failed, winning a case against the controversial spraying of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The vet will now receive 100 percent permanent and total disability, due to related medical problems, according to Claiborne Veterans Service Officer Lee Brame.

The announcement was included in the April information packet, distributed to the Claiborne commissioners ten days prior to each regular monthly meeting.

In his report, Brame says the win is “fairly unusual, since the government only admits that herbicides were used to spray (by hand) the fence lines of several Royal Thailand Air Force Bases.”

Awards for Thailand exposures of Agent Orange, he said, are usually limited to U.S. Air Force Security forces guarding the Thailand airbase perimeters.

“About three years ago, I found recently declassified aerial photos of Korat Airbase in Thailand that proved that our local veteran had to walk daily between two sprayed perimeter fences at Korat from his army post at Camp Friendship,” states Brame, in his report.

In its annual 2017 update report, the Board of Veteran Appeals stated that it takes an average 2,073 days (five and one-half years) just to process a BVA appeal. Once completed, it takes an additional 11 months for the Appeals Management Center to place the claim on the court docket, according to Brame.

The appeal lodged on behalf of the local veteran was submitted in September of 2015, making it one of few whose turnaround was made in record time.

“The evidence submitted and analysis of the errors made in deciding the claim were sufficiently convincing that the Appeals Management Center made a complete grant of award without sending the appeal to the entire Board,” reads the report, in part.

Brame ends his report by stating that the backlog of appeals, and the time it takes to process them, makes it critical that veterans receive effective representation by their service officer. Continuity in the job is critical, he added, in his report.

In other business, the Claiborne Commission will vote on recommendations made by County Mayor Jack Daniels to seat the Equalization Board. These are two-year terms. Those on the short list are Donna Russell, Mike Wilmoth, Robin Davis Duncan, Kim Seal and Lawrence Fultz.

The commissioners will also decide whether to require continuing educational classes for members of the Equalization Board and those who are County Hearing officers.

Under new state laws, these county boards are required to undergo four hours of annual training in governance, requirements for open meetings and other topics that the state comptroller might require.

Resolution 2018-030, if adopted, will amend the county budget, moving $5,300 into the appropriate line item. The funds will be used to relocate five air conditioning units currently atop the Claiborne County Courthouse. According to the resolution, the weight of these units resulted in damages to the portion of the roof above the jury room.

If adopted, resolution 2018-031 will allow sufficient funds to be transferred into the appropriate budget line item to pay for replacement of the main courthouse roof. The resolution also charges the commissioners with choosing the type of roofing materials to be used and selection of the vendor responsible for installation.

According to the resolution, the county will be reimbursed $18,160.20 in insurance claim funds. The full cost will not be known until the particulars are ‘ironed out.’

Resolution 2018-029 calls for county support in obtaining grant funds to build new soccer fields. If successful, both high schools and the new Harrogate Park could benefit, according to the resolution.

The commissioners will also consider a total five budget amendments for the Claiborne Sheriff’s Department, the Senior Citizens and the Board of Education.

The Claiborne Commission will meet in regular session at 6:30 p.m. on April 16, inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne Courthouse.

As is normally the case, items could be added or deleted from the agenda, during the opening moments of the meeting. In particular, the commissioners will likely deal with a finding from the state comptroller concerning a ‘questionable’ purchase by the county of a used excavator.

As of press time, the Claiborne Finance Committee was in the process of meeting on this issue. Its recommendation to the full commission was expected to be special-delivered, the next day, to all 21 commissioners, for review.