Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Veteran's Worst Enemy...

...is Another Veteran.

That's right: a Veteran's worst enemy is another Veteran.

There is a document going around the Internet right now that essentially lays the failure of HR 2254 [The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009] squarely at the feet of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The document claims the DVA distorted figures used by the Congressional Budget Office in coming up with a cost for the bill, resulting in a greatly inflated cost that killed the bill despite the fact that some 260 Congressmen signed on as Cosponsors.

The Document's author is the head of a Blue Water Navy group [not VASVW]. The document lists a number of "lies" which are charged to the DVA in making their estimates, and claims these lies made the bill too expensive to pass.

What's wrong with this picture?

First, the author himself is one who shares the responsibility for the cost estimates to be so high. He is one of the people who sat on the "secret" committee led by Kurt Priessman [an Air Force Veteran of service in Thailand during the Vietnam War], that sent an August, 2008 letter to Bob Filner, [D-CA], then Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. That letter asked Filner to add additional groups to his first effort at restoring benefits to those who served in groups the DVA had removed from eligibility for presumptive exposure to herbicides under the 1991 Agent Orange Act. In addition to covering the Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and the Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia [TLC] Veterans, this "secret" committee of Veterans asked Filner to add Veterans who served on Johnston Island and Veterans who received the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Read the letter in this previous post: How HR 6562 got hijacked.

Both of those groups open the door to adding huge numbers to the bill. Essentially, it was this letter that sank Filner's first effort, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008. Then, the letter found its way into the language of the second Filner effort, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009. [Now it has also been included in the third effort by Filner, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011!]. Read the bills and you see "Johnston Island" and "Vietnam Campaign Medal" specifically included in the bills. That language stems from the August 2008 letter composed by the "secret" committee of Veterans.

So the real lie here is in blaming the DVA for the demise of the Agent Orange bill not once, but twice, because of its estimates of potential claims resulting in a $27 billion bill. What causes those high estimates are the inclusions of the words "Johnston Island" and "Vietnam Campaign Medal," because including Veterans under those qualifiers adds tens [perhaps hundreds] of thousands of potential claims to a bill that should be offered to no more than 60-80,000 Vietnam Veterans who served in the Blue Sky Air Force, Blue Water Navy and TLC.

We note that the Vietnam Campaign Medal is a foreign award, and should not be used as a qualifier for US Veterans benefits. What it in fact does in this case is to add all the outside locations [outside the Vietnam Theater] that stored or trans-shipped herbicides to and from South Vietnam. That would be Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, and potentially several other locations. That would also include Johnston Island. Veterans who served at those locations received the VCM, in lieu of the Vietnam Service Medal, because they did not serve inside the area of combat operations designated for the Vietnam Service Medal, otherwise known as the Combat Zone. Recipients of the Vietnam Service Medal could also receive the Vietnam Campaign Medal if their tour of duty in the Combat Zone was longer than six months.

The Medal that should be in the bill is the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Vietnam. The AFEM was "awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who, after July 1, 1958, have participated in a United States military operation and encountered foreign armed opposition, or were in danger of hostile action by foreign Armed Forces." [Wikipedia] and operations included in the list are: VIETNAM (1 JUL 58 - 3 JUL 65); CAMBODIA (29 MAR 73 - 15 AUG 73) - NO NAVY UNIT ELIGIBLE; THAILAND (29 MAR 73 - 15 AUG 73) - NO NAVY UNIT ELIGIBLE; Laos 19 April 1961 - 7 October 1962. [OpNavNote 1650 Mar 2002] Those who received this medal are eligible to exchange it for the Vietnam Service Medal.

We have noted on here before, that in their zeal to "leave no one behind", the other Blue Water Navy group has left everyone behind, twice.

We have offered our proposed legislation to any Veterans to advocate the bills in Congress. The proposed bills are specifically designed to keep the restoration of benefits illegally removed from the Agent Orange Act of 1991 by the DVA, separate from the institution of legislation providing benefits to anyone who served anywhere during the Vietnam era, and did not receive the Vietnam Service Medal, and who was exposed to herbicides as documented by the Department of Defense.

We don't want credit for the bills, we want them to pass. Anyone is free to claim credit for them.

But at the same time, we issue this warning: once the Agent Orange Restoration Act and the Agent Orange Supplemental Act are introduced, Do not go near the Restoration Act to try to alter who it covers.

We have very little in the way of positive feeling for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but when some Veteran shamelessly accuses the DVA of lying to Congress to cover up what he did that left so many behind - twice, we are forced to speak up and correct the record. His actions make all Veterans look bad. And the evidence is there in the bills, and in the letter.

A Veteran's worst enemy is another Veteran.

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

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