Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Great Sin of American Government

President Abraham Lincoln, at the end of his Second Inaugural Address, eloquently declared,
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.
This epitomizes the promise of the American people, through their government, to provide adequate care for those who serve the nation in its military, in peace and especially in war.

The record has not been a good one. Returning veterans of the Great War were promised a “bonus” benefit that would be paid to them in 1945. When the hard times of the Great Depression hit, they began pressing for an immediate payout. The government was slow to act. Eventually they formed what was called the Bonus Army, and marched on Washington. They camped on the Mall, creating a large tent city there. They were peaceful. A bill was introduced in the House to pay the “bonus” immediately. It died in the Senate. The Bonus Army began agitating more loudly, and after several incidents President Hoover ordered Army Commander General Douglas MacArthur to clear the camps. He, in turn ordered General George Patton to use the 12th US Infantry and the 3rd US Cavalry regiments to clear Washington DC of the “Bonus Army”. The troops moved on the camps, with fixed bayonets, and tear gas, and several of the veterans were killed, as were some children, victims of the tear gas. One veteran lost an ear to a cavalry saber.

The men went home without their money. They eventually got it in 1936, but that is a story for another day.

But imagine it – US Army troops assaulting a large body of veterans and their families in a camp on the Mall in Washington, DC – within sight of the United States Capitol. A shameful event in our history.

So, with the exception of the post-WW II and post Korean War eras, when millions of returning vets got educational and housing benefits, as well as medical care for service connected disabilities, the record is more than dismal, it is downright shameful.

And here is the Great Sin of the American Government. The VA has been arbitrarily denying benefits to naval veterans of Vietnam [a class of veterans called Blue Water Sailors], claiming that unless you set foot on the ground in Vietnam, you did not fall under the legislation’s umbrella for presumptive eligibility for service connected disability under the Agent Orange legislation. Nowhere in the legislation is there any reference to a requirement for setting foot on the ground. The legislation states that service in Vietnam is to include service in offshore waters. Period. There is nothing in the legislation that alters that statement in any way. The requirement that Blue Water Sailors had to have set foot on the ground inside the Republic of Vietnam is an invention of the VA’s General Counsel about ten years ago. This requirement is, essentially, what the Haas v. Nicholson ruling overturned back last summer.

Now the VA is fighting that decision. The Secretary ordered all Blue Water Navy claims sidetracked and placed on hold while they appeal.

The VA, by this most ignominious policy, has denied benefits to an entire class of veterans, numbering perhaps in the tens of thousands, perhaps more. In so doing, they have denied those veterans and their caregivers, and loved ones, the care, comfort and security due to them. In so doing they have denied the relief of suffering that such benefits would bring, and precipitated the early demise of thousands of Blue Water Sailors who died from the Agent Orange diseases, hastened because of a lack of care that was unaffordable without the disability benefits they should have received. And now their widows and survivors are left to fight for what should have been theirs by right.

And the reason for it? Money. The Secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs have decided that to pay the claims to the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans would bust their budget, and their staff. Instead of asking for the money in their annual budget requests, they spend money fighting the court cases, tying up the resources of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and allowing good men and women to die horrible deaths uncared for, and uncomforted by the benefits Congress wanted to give them. This discrimination began under President Clinton, and has been continued during the entire Bush administration.

This hideous and reprehensible policy is nothing short of malicious negligence, malfeasance, and discrimination. It is, in short a heinous crime against an entire class of veterans. It is the Great Sin of the American Government.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." -- President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

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