Sunday, April 03, 2011

Why two bills?

Glad you asked.

The proposed Agent Orange Restoration Act restores benefits to Veterans included in the original Agent Orange Act of 1991 [those who served in the Blue Water Navy, and those who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia [TLC] during the Vietnam War. This restores eligibility for presumptive exposure to herbicides to all who received the Vietnam Service Medal [VSM], or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam [AFEM-V]. These Veterans "subgroups" are not new to Congress, and we think the appropriation for them is still in place, and that the DVA is using the money for other purposes, such as new construction.

The proposed Agent Orange Supplemental Act will provide presumptive eligibility to a new class of Vietnam Era Veterans who did NOT earn either the VSM or the AFEM-V. Therefore, it covers any Veteran of the Vietnam Era, who served anywhere else in the world at the same time herbicides were used, stored, or shipped from/to/through that location, and have developed an official Agent Orange Disease. It is the same coverage as the Restoration Act [which is the same coverage as that provided under the current version of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, as amended.]

The major difference to Congress is the cost.

The Restoration Act will cost approximately $1.8-3 Billion the first year [due mainly to retroactive lump sum payments], and approximately $400-600 Million per year after that, declining each year as the Vietnam Veterans die off. Dependents Indemnity Compensation [Survivors Benefits] will require additional funding beyond the death of the last Vietnam Veteran. This is a simple bill, the language of which simply restores the VSM, or the AFEM-V as the primary qualifier for presumptions.

The Supplemental Act covers a class of Veterans totally new to Congress. The language of their bill needs to be added to Title 38 via the legislation. Appropriations must be found for this bill. Costs need to be developed based on the population of the covered class of veterans. This will take time. Congress needs to be educated on this class of Veterans and how they were exposed. This will take time. This will cover those who served during the Vietnam Era in such places as Panama, the Philippines, Okinawa, Guam, Johnston Island, Japan, Hawaii, and essentially at almost any US or NATO Base anywhere in the world since herbicides were used throughout.

Accordingly, by the nature of things, the Restoration Act should find an easy path to passage. Conceivably, the appropriations should not be a problem since the original 1991 appropriations are still in place, and this class of Veterans [BWN, TLC] is already covered under it. [This makes it the problem of the DVA to re-divert the money it is already spending elsewhere [rather than returning it to the US Treasury!] and ask for new appropriations in their spending bill to cover whatever they were using the money for]. The cost for this coverage essentially goes to zero.

Funding for the Supplemental Bill will take an enormous effort as there is no sure set of numbers at this time beyond the fact that approximately 5.3 million men and women [and sometimes their dependents] served in areas covered by this bill during the Vietnam Era, who are NOT Vietnam Veterans but are Vietnam Era Veterans.

While we are asking both bills to be introduced together, they will not travel on the same path or on the same timeline.

But the two bills will prevent the loading up of the Restoration Act with groups that will drive the cost up, as it has the past three years [two bills, in the last two sessions of Congress died in committee because of costs driven sky high by the addition of Vietnam Era Veterans to the bill.]

On the plus side, while there is little prospect for the immediate passage of the Supplemental Act, the passage of the Restoration Act would be a major step toward the recognition of just how bad the devastation from dioxin-containing herbicides was, and still is. And those who served outside of the Vietnam Theater of War will finally have a bill to call their own, where they can band together and provide the kind of advocacy-specific impetus needed to pass their bill. It is a different class of Veterans and requires different language than the Restoration Act.

For those of you who actively advocate for these bills, feel free to download them from the links at the top right of the page, and forward them to your Representative and both Senators, and ask them to help introduce, cosponsor, fund and pass both bills. Then, truly, no one will be left 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 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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4 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:55

    Do we believe that this bill can pass given the sorry state of our economy and the focus being given to cuts in 'entitlements'? No matter how sympathetic Congress may be too our plight, don't you think they will look at any new benefit costing more than $1.98 with a hardened heart? Right now, I think 'Agent Orange' is another buzz-word to curry favor with Vets, ranks right up there with 'Concurrent Reciept' and a few others. Please don't take these remarks to mean I am not in full support of this; I'd just like to hear what people honestly think of it's chances given the current $$ crunch we find ourselves in.

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  2. Anonymous01:20

    This Agent Orange legislation speaks to the issue of priorities. If the care of sick military vets is a top priority of this nation, then the budget is there, the same way we found the budget to attack Libya to the tune of $608 million over a matter of days.

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  3. Anonymous09:35

    "....the care of sick military vets..." IS a top priority in this nation....at least at election time. Filner's bill never made it to debate last year, let alone a vote...where were the priorities then? I know the bill was flawed but that ISN'T the reason it never made it to the floor. Idea; maybe we can get our Reps to put it in as an earmark....they seem to have the best chance.....

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  4. Filner's Bill was never intended to make it out of committee. It was far too expensive. Read down to the post titled "A Veteran's Worst Enemy..."

    VNVets

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