Tuesday, August 10, 2010

VASVW Letter to Akaka and Filner

Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Hon. Bob Filner, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Hon. Steve Buyer, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs

Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner,

I am writing to you today to ask that you conduct whatever legislative hearings and actions that are required and report the Agent Orange Equity Act out of committee as soon as possible. As you must be aware, every day you delay enactment of this bill, hundreds of Vietnam Veterans will die in poverty, and perhaps early since they will have been denied access to necessary medical care.

Further, I suggest the following changes to the language of the bill to minimize cost, and thereby reduce objections to the bill:

1. Remove Johnston Island. Including Johnston Island raises the cost of the bill and changes the nature of the bill from one that restores benefits illegally taken away by the DVA, to one that encourages not just Johnston Island, but dozens of groups from other locations outside the Vietnam Theater of War to seek to add their groups to the bill. As you are aware, I previously submitted to you a second proposed bill, called the Agent Orange Supplemental Act, that would cover all those other groups by creating an entirely new section in Title 38. Why not introduce that bill? Johnston Island would be covered under that bill.

2. Change the "Vietnam Campaign Medal" to the "Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam" [AFEM-VN]. In order to receive the Vietnam Campaign Medal a Veteran would have had to receive either the Vietnam Service Medal or the AFEM-VN, which are interchangeable. By making that change and enacting the bill, you will restore compensation and medical benefits to thousands of Veterans who were eligible under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, and were made ineligible by various illegal policy changes made by the DVA over the period from 1991 to 2002. The bill will then cover the Blue Sky Air Force, the Blue Water Navy, and the Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia: Veterans who served thus did receive either the Vietnam Service Medal or the AFEM-VN. By using this as the qualifier for presumptive exposure to herbicides, you will be adhering to the best advice recommended by the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. His recommendations are even more sound today than they were in 1989 when he presented his report.

3. Add language that would avoid "short claims" due to failure to appeal. Each of the changes made to the policy by the DVA that led to the removal from eligibility for presumptive exposure to herbicides, was done without the DVA's adherence to the Administrative Procedures Act. In other words, eligibility should go retroactive to 1991 as that is when the DVA removed the Veterans of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia from eligibility. [Note: the Air Force Veterans were removed in 1993 and the Blue Water Navy Veterans in 2002.] None of the changes to the policy in the Code of Federal Regulations, or in the DVA's own policy manual [M21-1], were put out for public comment as required under the Administrative Procedures Act. Penalizing the Veteran claimants for not appealing would result in forcing the Veterans to take their matter to court, placing a further unfair burden on the Veterans.

Here is the main part of the bill with the above changes made:

(a) Clarification- Section 1116 of title 38, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in subsections (a)(1) and (f), by striking `a veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975' and inserting `a veteran described in subsection (g)'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:
`(g) A veteran described in this subsection is a veteran who--
`(1) during active military, naval, or air service--
`(A) served in the Republic of Vietnam (including the inland waterways, ports, and harbors of such Republic, the waters offshore of such Republic, and the airspace above such Republic) during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975; or
`(2) received the Vietnam Service Medal, or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam.'
(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect as of September 25, 1985.
(c) Retroactivity- All claims under this act will be processed to date of first claim or severance of benefits, regardless of failure to appeal.

Further information on the potential cost of the bill is available for validation at the Defense Manpower Data Center website [ http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/vietnam.pdf ], the VIETNAM CONFLICT - CASUALTY SUMMARY dated May 16, 2008. In stead of the 500,000 plus figures for the Blue Water Navy service off Vietnam [or the DVA's absurdly wild claim of 800,000], the figure now posted by the Department of Defense is 229,000. A generous estimate assuming that all 229,000 are still alive, figured at a generous 15% as a maximum of potential claimants at 34,350. As you know, many are now dead, some have active claims with the DVA and others may not wish to file a claim. I would suggest to you that at the high outside, a reasonable number of potential claimants would be about 10,000-17,000.

Holding the enactment of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 in order to await the outcome of the SECOND Institute of Medicine consideration of the Australian Study on Dioxin and Blue Water Ship Water production does a grave disservice to the Veterans. In 2008, the Institute of Medicine reviewed the evidence in the Australian Study and was impressed enough to contract an independent scientist to "peer review" the study. The result was that the independent study found the Australian Study to be valid and good science. The IOM then passed on in its report a recommendation that Blue Water Navy be granted presumptive exposure to herbicides. There is no need to hold the bill to await the outcome of the SECOND review. We would ask this question: Where are the scientific studies conducted by the DVA that show the Blue Water Navy, the Blue Sky Air Force, or the Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans were not exposed to herbicides? In their absence there can be no justification for delaying the enactment of this bill.  Further delay results in the needless early deaths of thousands of Veterans, who will die without the medical care and without the compensation they have earned the hard way, and at the hands of their own government.

Cost should never be a factor when dealing with Veterans. I realize that part of your job is to find the money for any legislation. I would suggest to you that enactment of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 would be a great stimulus to the economy and would also boost the numbers for health care.

I remain available to work with you, and your staff, and those of other members of the committee to provide further evidence and documentation if necessary. Please feel free to call on me at any time.

I ask that you do the right thing and enact the bill as modified above, without further delay.

Thank you.

Very respectfully yours,

William G. Jeff Davis
Senior Legislative Advocate, Founder and CEO
The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War, Inc.
Service to the Nation decades ago, now back in action!
"Fortitudine vincimus!" - By endurance we conquer!

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 © 2005-2010: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

9 comments:

  1. A very thorough and comprehensive letter. I applaude your letter and hope it is received with an open mind by the addressees.

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  2. George Mitchell15:35

    Outstanding letter, Jeff. Very well put. Just hope it is taken seriously by the addressees.

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  3. Zinger20:25

    Jeff great work, what I find troubling is the US is planning to pay damages to Vietnam based on contamination by AO, and we are actually allies now.

    I am not smart enough to figure this out. Many like myself answered the call and by no fault of our own we are sick and dying.

    Thanks for your help, BT3 Zinger USS Lang DE-1060!

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  4. Anonymous07:14

    this letter is plain bullshit and greed. every veteran exposed to agent orange should be treated the same. DON'T SELL OUT YOUR BROTHERS WHO ARE DYING FROM AO. YOUR GREED SHOWS IN THIS LETTER. A LITTLE SPRINKLING FROM THE SKY IS NOTHING LIKE HAND PUMPING IT INTO 750 GALLON TRAILERS AND HAND SPRAYING IT WITH IT BLOWING BACK IN YOUR FACE OR DUMPING THE 50 LB BAGS OF IT INTO THE TRAILER AND MIXING IT WITH WATER. THIS LETTER IS BULLSHIT. YOU ARE JUST TRYING TO CUT OFF THOSE EXPOSED ON GUAM. I SAY IF YOU WANT TO CUT OFF YOUR BROTHERS IN ARMS THEN YOU SHOULD GET NOTHING.

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  5. This letter does not cut anyone off. Had you read it thoroughly, you would have seen the fact that both Akaka and Filner, and others including Webb, have had the proposed supplemental bill for almost two years and done nothing with it. Further, the groups you speak of have had those same two years to get their own bill written and introduced. Where was that effort?


    The logic of what you say, would lead, in practical terms to no one getting any benefits. This bill was introduced in late April of 2009. It has parts of four months left to be passed when Congress will be concentrating on the elections, and not passing legislation. If it does not go forward soon, it will die on the vine just like the previous bill died in 2008.

    The intent of Filner when he introduced the bill in 2008 was to restore the benefits that were taken illegally by the DVA. He was concerned about Guam and other places, so we wrote a proposed bill for him, providing him with a hand delivered copy in September or October of 2008. That bill would cover anyone, anywhere else in the world who was exposed to herbicides that were applied, stored, or transhipped when and where the individual with an AO disease was stationed or transiting.

    So, where have you been for the past two years?

    And please tell me, can you describe how you mixed Agent Orange more clearly? You said you took bags of it and dumped it into a trailer and mixed it with water?

    VNVets

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  6. Anonymous08:20

    The VA's June,2010 list of Blue Water Navy Ships exposed to Agent Orange failed to note(list) the USS Neches (AO-47). In early October,1968 the Neches dropped anchor and unrepped the USS Krishna (ARL-38) in An Thoi,Phu Quoc Island, South Vietnam. Phu Quoc Island was sprayed with 19,000gallons of AO during the war.

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  7. Don't tell me about it. Tell the DVA!!!

    Gather your documentation [Deck Logs, Cruise Books, photographs, etc.] and get copies to the Compensation and Pension people at DVA HQ in Washington, DC.

    VNVets is NOT affiliated with the DVA in any way.

    VNVets

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  8. Anonymous00:23

    I was finally given the rating of 100% for my Non Hodgkins-Lymphoma from the VA.
    A part that I didn't know, was that I'm not listed as a disabled person.
    I'm not able to get the insurance for my wife or myself, as well as all the other benefits that come with it.
    NHL is the type of condition that I'm going to have live with, because it is a perminate. I have cancer in my bone marrow as well as having a form of luekemia.
    This will never leave my body and it will always have the possibility of becoming worse.
    I catch infections and get sick going to stores constantly and it is essential to keep my anti-bodies up.
    NHL needs more then a 100% rating, it needs to come with benefits also. Everyone needs to know this, and if you're getting stable or go into remission by their standards, they will take the 100% rating away and you go back to your previous rating.
    The VA is as bad as the enemey we had to fight, they're trying to cut our throats as well.
    Thanks for this site and everybody keep the faith.
    God Bless America and to all that served her!

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  9. Well, its a good thing you got rated 100% for the NHL. That comes with full disability compensation and is not reducable for remission. As for insurance, the DVA should have notified you of the availability of an insurance plan through them. It's not bad, and not expensive.

    VNVets

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