Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At War with the DVA: Right and Wrong

My friend says, "With the DVA, it's about right and wrong, and they are just wrong...on so many things they do, and don't do." She is absolutely correct.

We would add that Congress is frequently in the same boat. At least their intent is good...sometimes.

Representative Linda Sanchez [CA-39] has introduced a resolution on the floor of the House to create a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. The intent, of course, is to honor all Vietnam Veterans. And there is where we come to the sticking point.

It used to be that if you received the Vietnam Service Medal, then you were a "Vietnam Veteran." Now, however, we who served on ships afloat in the South China Sea and Tonkin Gulf, along with Air Force personnel who overflew the Republic of South Vietnam on many different types of missions, nearly all combat, or combat support, and those who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, despite our Medal awards, have essentially been reclassifed by the Department of Veterans Affairs as "Vietnam Era Veterans."

If Vietnam Veterans allow this day to go into effect, tens of thousands of us who have been told our fight in the Vietnam War doesn't count will not be so honored because the DVA says we are NOT "Vietnam Veterans", but rather "Vietnam Era Veterans." Representative Sanchez and the 63 members of Congress who have co-sponsored her resolution [HRes 234] intend that we all be included. But Congress is too complicit in allowing 18 years to pass with the DVA hijacking the Agent Orange Act of 1991 without lifting a finger to stop them. So much for Congressional oversight.

We who are in limbo, however, feel differently. We have yet to be welcomed home. Our treatment at the hands of the DVA has been maliciously reprehensible, and probably criminally malfeasant and negligent. An oblivious Congress has allowed the DVA to hijack the Agent Orange Act of 1991 right from the start, 18 years ago. They have hijacked it, not with science, for there is no science to back what they have done, but with legalese. They have used legal mumbo-jumbo to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Vietnam Veterans from the benefits that Congress intended for them, and in so doing, moved them from the category of "Vietnam Veterans," to the category of "Vietnam Era Veterans".

Consider, Blue Water Sailors have been denied their Agent Orange Benefits with the words, "You did not serve in Vietnam." That phrase means we are not "Vietnam Veterans". It means we are Vietnam Era Veterans, just the same as any Army guy who spent the war years in Germany, or Air Force guy who spent the war years in Spain, or the Navy guys who were on Atlantic Fleet ships that were never deployed to Vietnam.

We were there. Many of us were on ships that provide the Army, Marines, Air Force, and our allies in the South Vietnamese military with gunfire support from just off the beaches of Vietnam. Others served on ships that launched sortie after sortie of bombing and strafing missions over both North and South Vietnam.

But despite evidence to the contrary, the Department of Veterans Affairs ASSERTS that Agent Orange stopped at the beach, and never went any farther, and never drifted through the skies, or if it did, it never crossed the coastline. Such "science" boggles the mind.

The members of VASVW have agreed to submit to their respective Congressional Representatives, the following resolution:

Whereas the government of the United States has declared through the Department of Veterans Affairs, that Veterans who served only in the waters off shore, the airspace above, and in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War are NOT Vietnam Veterans, but Vietnam Era Veterans, and

Wheras such discrimination includes true heroes such as Senator John S. McCain, and the hundreds of thousands of Veterans who volunteered for Vietnam Service, and

Wheras such discrimination is done in the face of the fact that all three of the groups involved were involved in combat operations, and were awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, not the Vietnam Era Service Medal, and

Whereas such Veterans are accorded less than War Veteran status by dint of these discriminatory actions, and

Whereas such Veterans then have been determined not worthy of the Welcome Home for Vietnam Veterans, and

Whereas such shameful treatment by the Government of the United States is contrary to all the historical records and true facts, and

Whereas the United States Congress has offered a resolution establishing a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,

Be it resolved that we Veterans and members of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War refuse to be so honored, and ask that all Vietnam Veterans refuse such honors, and that no welcome home is acceptable until such time as ALL true Vietnam Veterans are fully restored with their honor and their legacy, and their Veterans Rights and Benefits.
Congress wants us to feel welcome? Sorry, no can do.

We ask that all of you reach out to your Representative, especially if they are on the co-sponsor list below and get a copy of our resolution above into their hands.

Here is the list of current co-sponsors of Representive Sanchez's HRes234.

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez [D-TX]
Rep. Gwen Moore [D-WI]
Del. Madeleine Bordallo [D-GU]
Rep. Bob Filner [D-CA]
Rep. Timothy Bishop [D-NY]
Rep. David Loebsack [D-IA]
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R-WA]
Rep. Ben Chandler [D-KY]
Rep. Joe Courtney [D-CT]
Rep. Joe Donnelly [D-IN]
Rep. Melissa Bean [D-IL]
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA]
Rep. Donna Edwards [D-MD]
Rep. Barton Gordon [D-TN]
Rep. James McGovern [D-MA]
Rep. Betty McCollum [D-MN]
Rep. Raul Grijalva [D-AZ]
Rep. Barney Frank [D-MA]
Rep. Yvette Clarke [D-NY]
Rep. Tammy Baldwin [D-WI]
Rep. Tim Holden [D-PA]
Rep. Phil Hare [D-IL]
Rep. Dennis Moore [D-KS]
Rep. Michael Arcuri [D-NY]
Rep. Christopher Carney [D-PA]
Rep. Maurice Hinchey [D-NY]
Rep. Heath Shuler [D-NC]
Rep. Lincoln Davis [D-TN]
Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D-OH]
Rep. Russ Carnahan [D-MO]
Rep. Mazie Hirono [D-HI]
Rep. Dennis Cardoza [D-CA]
Rep. Jerry Moran [R-KS]
Rep. Jay Inslee [D-WA]
Del. Gregorio Sablan [I-MP]
Rep. Michael Capuano [D-MA]
Rep. Joe Baca [D-CA]
Rep. Candice Miller [R-MI]
Rep. Adam Schiff [D-CA]
Rep. Donald Young [R-AK]
Rep. Betty Sutton [D-OH]
Rep. John Sarbanes [D-MD]
Rep. Harry Teague [D-NM]
Rep. Martin Heinrich [D-NM]
Rep. Bart Stupak [D-MI]
Rep. Diane Watson [D-CA]
Rep. John Adler [D-NJ]
Rep. Brian Higgins [D-NY]
Rep. Robert Brady [D-PA]
Rep. James Moran [D-VA]
Rep. Eddie Johnson [D-TX]
Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD]
Rep. Leonard Boswell [D-IA]
Rep. Ben Luján [D-NM]
Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN]
Rep. Charles Gonzalez [D-TX]
Rep. Steve Scalise [R-LA]
Rep. Bruce Braley [D-IA]
Rep. Mike Ross [D-AR]
Rep. James McDermott [D-WA]
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez [D-IL]
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords [D-AZ]
Rep. Frank Wolf [R-VA]
If Congress wants to welcome us home, let them restore our benefits and take steps to keep the DVA from doing the same to our latest Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leave no one behind.

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 Bush 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

5 comments:

  1. I will do you one better. I have my husband's rating decision from 1977 denying his claim for benefits initiated when he was in a mental health care facility. The form claims he had no combat stressors and his employment was not an issue.

    Three men signed that rating decision, claiming they reviewed his file, a file that neither he nor his doctors ever saw. Yet his DD214 clearly shows that he was in country, was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal and 43 Air Medals, among others which should have prompted a more thorough examination of the file that I was told did not exist for 17 years after his death by suicide in 1983.

    Imagine my surprise when I received the file, only to see "unable to locate file" notices on top of his and his reps repeated requests for the file.

    He served with HMM 362, Ugly Angels, from late Dec. 1967 until early Jan. 1969.

    I am currently still engaged with the VA over this matter after discovering that the state VA counselors I had been using were either deliberately providing misinformation and/or preventing me from getting the file or were simply incompetent.

    So much for their mission statement.

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  2. I am sorry for your loss, which was likely preventable, and for your long struggle, which is entirely preventable. It is reprehensible that they cover up a crime by "losing" records.

    I wish he were here so I could Welcome him home, but in a larger sense, he is home now.

    Please use the email me link on the left sidebar to send me your email address [it doesn't come through on here]. I want to offer some possible help.

    VNVets

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  3. Anonymous23:07

    It's worthy of note that the government that, in essence, states we are not actual war vets, is the same one that paid us hostile fire pay, included us in an income tax exclusion, gave us free postage from the hostile fire zones (Can you believe they actually called the offshore zones that?)and many other little perks our shipmates in the Med didn't see. Can we expect a bill from the Govt. demanding we repay all that $$$? Nothing would surprise me.

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  4. Anonymous17:27

    Are you sure Sanchez introduced anything? I don't see the HRes 234 you referenced anywhere in the listings.

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  5. Well, this is embarassing.

    The resolution was passed on March 29th.

    VNVets

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