Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Update on BWN legislation

As of now, there are BWN bills pending in both houses of congress.  HR 969, the BWN Act in the House, currently has 333 cosponsors out of 435 total Representatives.  Can you tell it is an election year?

In the Senate, S.681 has 44 cosponsors out of 100 Senators.  Obviously it is an election year, and both houses are in recess during the Conventions.  They will return sometime later in the summer to get a little done before the Election. 

Also in the Senate, section 522 of the Military and VA Construction Bill [HR 4974] is still alive.  Section 522 is a short but effective version of the BWN bills added to this Construction Appropriations bill as an amendment as a means to get it passed.  After it was successfully added to the House version of  of HR 4974 and that bill was passed, it was sent to the Senate.  The Senate called for a conference committee as there was disagreement about some things in the bill.  The Conference committee stripped the BWN amendment [Section 522] among others.  However, after the House agreed to the changes, the bill failed in the Senate.  That means it reverts to the version first passed by the House.  Section 522 is still in the bill. 

Best course of action for all you BWN Veterans is to grab your Senator by the lapels as he is electioneering back in your state, and tell him his political life will end unless that bill gets passed!   Make him prove the added cosponsors are not just election year posturing. 

If 20 of you can be successful at this with Senators who are not yet cosponsors, there will be majority support -- overwhelming majority support, in both houses and the bill should pass.  Remind your Senator you know how to find out how he voted. 

Attention on deck!  Now, turn to!

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Latest on the Military and VA Construction Bill

This just in from our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association:
"MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill without Agent Orange Provision Fails in Senate
A final Conference Committee Report to resolve the differences between the House and Senate Military Construction and Department of Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bills failed to get the required 60 votes in the Senate after it was approved in the House.  The bill also includes emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. The original bill that passed the House (H.R. 4974) included an FRA-supported amendment that would extend presumptive service-connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. The final bill drafted by a conference committee dropped the Agent Orange provision. FRA wants to thank the Shipmates that used the Action Center that generated nearly 5,000 e-mail messages for this bill. House staff has indicated that many of the provisions in the MilCon/VA Appropriations bill will probably be included in an omnibus appropriations bill with many, if not all of the other 11 appropriations bills. FRA will continue searching for methods to move the Agent Orange/Blue Water Navy presumption issue forward. Members can continue to weigh in on this issue through the FRA Action Center ( action.fra.org/action-center )"
Essentially the Senate rejected what the joint House-Senate Conference Committee sent back to the Senate.  Here are the rules according to Congress.gov:
"If a conference report is rejected by one of the Houses, it so notifies the other body by message and usually requests another conference; however, it may merely notify the second body of its action without requesting a further conference, leaving further steps to be taken by the other House. Endorsements showing these various legislative steps, and when taken, are made on the engrossed bill."  
At this point in time, the Majority leader of the Senate, Senator McConnell of Kentucky, has not said what action he will take on the bill.  Note also, the conference committee stripped the Blue Water Navy amendment from the bill, so IF Senator McConnell sends the bill back to the House. it will revert to the original version the House already passed, which contains the BWN Amendment.  If McConnell requests another conference committee, that committee, made up of members of both Houses of Congress will have another try at ironing out differences in the bill the House passed with what the Senate wants to see.  The Conference committee will revisit the bill anew, and hopefully a different decision will be made regarding Section 522 [the BWN Amendment].  Then it will go before the Senate again.  We'll have to see if Representative Gibson [D-NY] and Representative Dent [R-PA] can provide enough influence to the House conferees to maintain section 522 in the conference report.

If Senator McConnell does not request a conference committee to review the bill, then the House has only the formality of resubmitting the bill back to the Senate for full consideration.  It will go through the Appropriations committee in the Senate, and they moved it pretty quickly last time.  I cannot see this going to another conference committee.  And Congress needs to move it pretty quickly to get it done before the recess.  Failure to act on the bill before the recess, will simply mean it waits until Congress resumes after the recess.

Regardless, we must keep the pressure up especially in the Senate via the FRA's Action page.  And once again, if you are not a member of the FRA, you should be.  Join this proud, fine, hard working organization today!  Click here for info on membership

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Friday, June 24, 2016

One more push needed for Blue Water Navy Justice!

Important information from our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association:
Oppose MilCon/VA Appropriations without Agent Orange Reform

The House approved an amendment to the House version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bill (H.R. 4974) that would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange herbicide by Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. The House approved the bill, and the Senate passed its version of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations (spending) bill, without this provision.  A conference committee was appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills, drafted a final bill that stripped out the Agent Orange provision, and the House has already approved it. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their Senators to oppose the final version of the bill that will be voted on by the Senate.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently presumes any service member who had boots on the ground or served on Vietnam’s inland waterways was exposed to Agent Orange. If these veterans experience health problems related to that exposure, they are eligible for VA disability benefits. The policy, however, denies this presumption to veterans who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam, even though many of these so-called “Blue Water Navy” veterans are experiencing the same health problems as those who served inland. The passage of this amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY) is a major step forward for Blue Water Navy veterans, who should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.  
Please us the link at top right of this post to take action.  And remember, if you aren't a member of the FRA, you should be!  Join today!  Click here for info.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

FRA: Pass Agent Orange Blue Water Navy Reform Now!

This just in from John R. Davis, the Director of Legislative Programs at the Fleet Reserve Association:
Support Agent Orange Reform in House Spending Bill
The House approved an amendment to the House version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 4974) that would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange herbicide by Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. The House approved the bill.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently presumes any service member who had boots on the ground or served on Vietnam’s inland waterways was exposed to Agent Orange. If these veterans experience health problems related to that exposure, they are eligible for VA disability benefits. The policy, however, denies this presumption to veterans who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam, even though many of these so-called “Blue Water Navy” veterans are experiencing the same health problems as those who served inland.
The passage of this amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY) is a major step forward for Blue Water Navy veterans, who should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. The Senate has passed its version of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations (spending) bill, without this provision.  There will be a conference committee appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their Senators to support this House provision in the final version of the bill that will be voted on by both chambers and if approved sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.
Click here to go to the FRA Action Page!

If you are not a member of this fine organization, you should be!   Join today!  Click here to join.  

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Update on H.R. 4974

You can see a copy of the text of this enormous bill at this website.  You need to scroll all the way down almost to the bottom to get to Section 522.  That is the amendment that was added to the bill just before passage in the House.  We now wait to see what the House-Senate Conference committee will do to the bill to reconcile it with the bill the Senate passed earlier, which does not contain our amendment. 

Given the fact that the BWN bill in the House is still gaining bipartisan cosponsors [323 at last count], there may be no great interest in stripping Section 522 from this appropriations bill.

Hang on, and get to both of your Senators to bring them on board to get this thing enacted! 

It's been 14 years since the VA unilaterally removed the BWN from presumptive exposure to tactical herbicides and 8 long years since the first attempt at a restoration bill was sent to Committee.  That is far to long to wait for justice, but wait we must until the Appropriations bill passes the Senate with the amendment intact. 

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Friday, May 27, 2016

FRA: AO Bill in Appropriations bill as amendment

From our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association:
Agent Orange Reform in MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill
The House approved an amendment to its version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bill (H.R. 4974) that would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently presumes any service member who had boots on the ground or served on Vietnam’s inland waterways was exposed to Agent Orange. If these veterans experience health problems related to that exposure, they are eligible for VA disability benefits. The policy, however, denies this presumption to veterans who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam, even though many of these so-called “Blue Water Navy” veterans are experiencing the same exposure-related health problems as those who served inland.

The passage of this amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY), is a major step forward for Blue Water Navy veterans, who should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. The Senate passed its version of the MilCon/VA spending bill, without this provision. There will be a conference committee appointed to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center at action.fra.org/action-center/ to ask their senators to support this House provision in the final version of the bill, which will be voted on by both chambers and, if approved, sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.
As we have said repeatedly, if you are not a member of FRA, you should be.  Join this fine organization today!  Click here!

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Now the Senate

The Senate version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, S.2806, was reported out of committee on April 18th of this year.  That is, the committee offered the bill to the floor of the Senate.  This version of the bill, in addition to the version passed by the House last week will have to be reconciled, to make them the same, or to change what the House version has in it.  Most likely Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, will set up a Conference committee to iron out the differences. 

Our preference is for the Senate to accept the House version and pass it.

As this is a major funding bill, the Senate will likely not waste any time in moving the bill, either passing it unchanged, or modified and returned to the House.  At some point both houses must agree on the language of the entire bill in order to have it enacted.

In this election season, the conventions are coming up and the primaries are ending.  Congress will go into recess soon, next week for the Holiday, near the end of June, briefly, and after two weeks in July.  Then they recess for the Conventions.

Please, contact BOTH your Senators and extract their promise to keep the Blue Water Navy amendment in the bill, no matter which version gets passed.  Keep the pressure on!

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finally! The House passes the BWN bill!

This information comes from the weekly newsletter by by the VFW:
House Passes Amendment for Blue Water Navy Benefits: An amendment to the House-passed version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. Currently, only those Vietnam veterans who were “boots on the ground” or served on the inland waterways are eligible for the presumption.  This would mean eligibility for health care and compensation for thousands of veterans. The inclusion of the amendment came on the heels of a Washington, D.C. press conference organized by its sponsor, Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY), and attended by the VFW. The passage of this amendment is a major victory, as the VFW has long advocated that Blue Water Navy veterans should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. Still, the amendment must pass the Senate. Be on the lookout for an Action Alert on this issue next week, and feel free to begin contacting your Senators today to let them know that this is a top priority!  To read the Military Times article about the amendment, click here:

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/05/19/house-votes-expand-benefits-vietnam-blue-water-navy-vets/84602742/ 

A check with the Congressional website says House Amendment 1078 offered by Representative Christopher Gibson of New York, was approved for inclusion in the bill by a voice vote.

Here is the language of the Amendment [it was corrected from an earlier attempt so it would conform with Congressional procedural law]:
  "At the end of the bill, before the short title, insert the following: 
 Sec. __.  None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to enforce VA Adjudication Procedure Manual M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section H, Topic 28.h related to Developing Claims Based on Service Aboard Ships Offshore the RVN."
What this does is forces the VA to treat any BWN claim to have been exposed inside the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam the same as any claim from on land or Brown Water.  Now, in all likelihood, the VA will interpret the territorial waters to be the most restrictive, probably 10 miles off shore. 

A HUGE thank you to Representative Christopher Gibson from New York who circumvented the House Committee on Veterans Affairs where the BWN bill was locked away, and by a simple paragraph, reworded with the assistance of Representative Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania, and the result is the BWN benefit restoration is on the way to the Senate, funded, and with the full backing of the House.


Stay tuned this week.  And contact your Senators, both of them, and pressure them to advance the amendment intact. 

More to follow!

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.