Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dear Mr. President

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I am writing to you as a fellow veteran, to enlist your assistance in righting a very serious wrong being committed against tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans who served in the offshore waters of that nation.

As you are likely aware, the original enabling legislation (Title 38 USC, Chapter 11) for Veterans Disability benefits under presumptive conditions of exposure to dioxin (Agent Orange, etc.) for those who served in the Vietnam War was limited by a Veterans Affairs General Council Precedent, VAOPGCPREC 27-97, of June 23, 1997, to those who actually served within the land boundaries of the Republic of Vietnam, and on that country’s rivers. Therefore, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel who served in the offshore waters were ruled ineligible for benefits under Agent Orange presumptive legislation, even though the inclusion of the term “service…in offshore waters” was included in the original Agent Orange legislation.

Late last summer the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims overturned that policy (VAOPGCPREC 27-97) in Hass v. Nicholson, which in one stroke made an entire class of veterans (“Blue Water Veterans”) eligible for presumptive eligibility for Agent Orange benefits. Instead of immediately moving to make the processing and payment of claims available as soon as possible, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs claimed his agency would not survive the onslaught of all those claims, nor would the DVA have enough money to pay them. Based on this he ordered the claims enabled under Haas to be held in abeyance while an appeal was filed.

Mr. President these “Blue Water Veterans” comprise a class of veterans who served their nation honorably in time of war, either in combat or in combat support roles, often under fire. This class of veterans has obviously been exposed to dioxin, else the Secretary would not fear the numbers who might file.

Further proof of how they were exposed was provided by tests performed by our friends in the Australian Navy, who determined that seawater containing dioxin from runoff or overspray, when processed through ships evaporators for conversion to fresh water, would not result in the elimination of the dioxin, but rather would concentrate it, making it much more deadly.

During the decade that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been prohibiting members of this class of veterans from receiving presumptive benefits under Agent Orange legislation, thousands of veterans in this class died fighting for their benefits as well as their lives. They left behind wives, and children who went through the sad, frustrating, and agonizingly slow process of fighting for their survivors’ benefits according to the VA’s rules, only to have them coldly rejected on the basis of not having set foot on the ground in the Republic of Vietnam.

The withholding of these benefits from this class of veterans has created an enormous hardship on the veterans, and their families that extends beyond the mere lack of financial benefits. The hardship includes not being able to afford needed medications that could possibly have kept them alive, or at least made their last days more comfortable. The hardship includes the creation and aggravation of subsidiary conditions, especially in the case of those who suffer from Type II Diabetes, which affects the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, eyes, nervous system, and arterial system. Type II Diabetes is a particularly insidious disease that if not treated properly will kill anyone who has it in short order.

There is something wrong with the logic of not taking care of an entire class of our nation’s war veterans who were presumed to be harmed by our own actions while they served in that war. To claim an inability to process the claims, and an inability to pay the claims is simply un-American. For the country of “can do” to say it “can’t do” is a very grave wrong. It also sets a dangerous precedent for future generations of our nation’s warriors.

I ask you Mr. President to assist and support the Secretary in correcting this grave wrong. Have him stop wasting money and resources in fighting Haas on appeal, and fighting the writ of mandamus ordered last week by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Ribaudo v. Nicholson). I ask you to have him go to Congress to request emergency funding to comply with the Haas decision, and to immediately begin processing the claims of the veterans now eligible. Perhaps the Secretary could even save money by outsourcing the processing of claims for the “Blue Water Veterans.”

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

President Lincoln in his eloquent Second Inaugural Address, asked the nation to move forward: “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.”

By doing the right thing, Mr. President, you will lighten the load of tens of thousands of “Blue Water Veterans” and their families. You will provide relief to those who suffer, extend the lives of many, save the lives of some, and correct a grave wrong; you will “…care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan…”; and you will make “…honorable and glorious…” again the service in the United States Navy during operations in the Vietnam War.

Thank you.

Respectfully,
W. G. Davis
Gettysburg, PA

[The above letter was sent to President G. W. Bush on January 18, 2007. To date there has been no response.]

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.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous15:43

    This is well stated. Thank you! I'm sure all who serve during this era appreciate your work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cros9914:40

    It is so discouraging when one takes pride in being an American Veteran and listens to the countries leaders praise us as "heros'" only to them turn their backs on us when we are in need as they send billions of dollars to foriegn lands.
    Starting with the President, they should hang their heads in shame.

    ReplyDelete