Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Silent No More

There seems to be a conspiracy among certain groups of Veterans that is exceptionally damaging to any and all efforts to get compensation and treatment for exposure to Agent Orange – all people who were exposed to Agent Orange. We are not just talking about US Veterans, we are talking about Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, and Laotian nationals who were exposed, and the subsequent damage to many of their children.

Essentially, many of these who advocate for this in the US Veterans community are Marine and Army Veterans, most of whom are already receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA]. Some of them are members of the liberal group that called themselves Vietnam Veterans Against the War [VVAW]. Others are highly placed in various major Veterans Service Organizations, and some others are simply members of small focused Veterans groups like the dog handlers who walked the perimeter of those US bases in Thailand, and another Blue Water Navy group.

They all write letters to the editors, and sometimes manage to get a small ‘op-ed’ type piece into a small newspaper.

And they all are clamoring to expand or combine three bills currently in Congress:

1. HR 812, a repeat of the Agent Orange Equity Act, introduced by Bob Filner [D-CA] during the previous two Congresses, and both loaded down by groups who wanted added to the bill, making it simply too expensive to pass. This version is identical to the one last session that was so expensive that Filner let it die in Sub-Committee, even though it had over 160 co-sponsors…more than sufficient to pass the bill.

2. HR 2634, The Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act, also introduced by Bob Filner. This bill aims: “To direct the Secretary of State to provide assistance for certain individuals affected by exposure to Agent Orange and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enhance the availability of medical care for descendants of veterans of the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.” This would provide money to the government of Vietnam to do cleanups of dioxin hotspots, and do medical treatments of the disfigured children of those Vietnamese exposed to dioxin. This is an enormously expensive bill.

3. S.1629, The Agent Orange Equity Act, co-introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY] and Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC]. This bill, as currently written, would restore benefits to the Blue Water Navy Veterans who served off the shore of Vietnam, but restricted to those who’s vessels sailed inside the territorial waters of the then-Republic of Vietnam.

We have posted trackers for all three of these bills at the top of the right hand column. You can read the latest version of the legislation by clicking on the top link in each block.

Not satisfied with the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act, the advocates want to pile onto S.1629 as well, and once again make the bill so expensive it will fail.

In other words, in their attempts to leave no Veteran behind they are, for the third time, leaving everyone behind.

We have repeatedly offered these groups and individuals a bill of their own. We have done so with the offer that we want no credit for the bill, they may claim it for themselves, modify it, and/or do whatever they want with it. We have emailed it to Veterans who were stationed on Guam and Okinawa, and are sick with dioxin related diseases, and we went to great lengths to advise them on how to organize and effectively campaign for their benefits. We are convinced that this is their best shot. And we understand that it will, if it happens, not do so until a year or more from now.

We call S.1629 a ‘restoration’ bill because from 1991 until 2002 any member of the Blue Water Navy who received the Vietnam Service Medal was entitled to presumtive exposure to herbicides benefits, but in 2002. the DVA illegally removed the Blue Water Navy from presumptive eligibility.  Our preference for S.1629, which seeks to restore those benefits, is to expand the physical limits of the waters to include the entire 'Combat Zone', and to add those Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Most of those who served in Laos and Cambodia, and many of those who served in Thailand are already eligible for presumptive eligibility since they also served in Vietnam itself. In other words we want to see the Vietnam Service Medal restored as the qualifying criteria for presumptive exposure to dioxin-containing herbicides.

What these bozos, and they ARE bozos cannot grasp is that there is not enough money to pay for it all- for everyone in the world who was exposed during the Vietnam War. One span of 5 minutes near the top of any network news broadcast should be enough to convince even a bozo that the nation's economy is headed down hill and has been for several years. So, we ask the bozos here, publicly, where is the money to come from for benefits and medical care for all these Vietnam Era Veterans, and the foreign nationals who were exposed?

We have, from the start in 2008, when legislation was first introduced, advocated small bites of the apple. S.1629 is NOT an expensive bill at less than $2 billion total, but when you add ALL the Vietnam Era Veterans who served on Guam, Okinawa, at Subic Bay, in Korea, Panama, Hawaii, Johnston Island, and elsewhere, you are likely talking about up to $2 trillion.   Adding the foreign nationals who were exposed will drive the cost up perhaps as high as $10 trillion!!!!

Where is Congress going to get that money when they are trying to reduce the deficit, and reduce the nation's debt?

Part of the mission of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [Join VASVW now] is, after the Blue Water Navy bill is passed, to continue advocating for benefits for Vietnam Era Veterans.

All those Veterans deserve benefits and medical coverage. The only valid question is how can they be paid for.

It is painfully obvious that the bozos simply plunge blindly onward trying to latch onto any and all bills that even mention Agent Orange. They give no thought to getting their own bill introduced.

In their effort to see that no Veteran is left behind, they repeatedly leave everyone behind. Its a vicious circle and they continue to insert themselves into it rather than using common sense.

In the right hand column is a section titled Proposed Agent Orange Legislation Links. In that section are two links. We hereby issue this challenge to these bozos: to take a copy of the Supplemental Act and get it introduced in Congress. We doubt they will do it, so after a reasonable time has passed and they have not backed off their efforts to load their groups onto S.1629, we will publish a list of the bozos' names and organizations. Folks will be surprised at some of the names on that list. Very high ups in the Veterans Service Organizations. 

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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