While we are on the subject of the VVA’s lack of effort regarding the passage of the Agent Orange Equity Act, we were informed of another issue that has VVA members across the country up in arms about an action taken by their national leadership.
As we have been informed, in November of last year, a request sent to the VVA by the Yale Law Clinic to have VVA provide a letter of support for a female Veteran [not a Vietnam Veteran], who was being denied spousal rights by the VA for her same sex marriage partner, was voted on by the VVA National Board. The Board voted to send the letter of support on behalf of Ms. Carmen Cardona, a disabled Navy Veteran whose case, Cardona v Shinseki, is currently in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Secretary Shinseki has recently notified the court that the VA will not be defending the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ [DOMA] in this case, a decision buttressed by a finding by US Attorney General Eric Holder, and one certainly condoned by President Obama, as he recently endorsed gay marriage.
Here is the transcript of the NY Times article:
Veteran in DOMA Case
By JAMES DAOJust hours after President Obama announced on Wednesday that he supported same-sex marriage, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would not defend the constitutionality of two federal laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman.The declaration was made in a Connecticut case in which a disabled Navy veteran is challenging the constitutionality of the two laws, one of which is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The former sailor, Carmen Cardona of Norwich, is asserting that the government improperly denied her benefits.Ms. Cardona says that after she married her partner in 2010, the V.A. regional office rejected her application for a spousal increase in her monthly disability compensation, citing federal statute defining a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex.”Last year, President Obama ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA. But Ms. Cardona filed her complaint before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where cases are generally argued by lawyers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, not from the Justice Department.Until Wednesday, it had been unclear whether the V.A. would continue to defend the law.
In a statement released through her lawyers at the veterans legal services clinic at Yale Law School, Ms. Cardona said: “I am proud that Secretary Shinseki has joined me, the Connecticut Attorney General, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and so many others in recognizing that all veteran families deserve fair treatment.”But it is not clear that the V.A. has actually given up the fight against giving Ms. Cardona spousal benefits. In a letter explaining his decision to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, said that the department would remain a party to the case. The Republican-controlled House has hired a private lawyer to handle the DOMA cases the Obama administration has decided not to defend.
[Note, this whole issue may become a moot point by upcoming events. First is the election. Should Mitt Romney win the elections, he would most certainly instruct his Attorney General and his VA Secretary as well, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]. Second, the Federal Circuit Court in Boston ruled a few days ago that the DOMA is unconstitutional, setting up a likely decision on appeal by the US Supreme Court. Either, one or the other, or neither might affect the outcome of Cardona.]
We wonder about a number of things here. Why VVA? What prompted the Yale Law Clinic to make such a request? Did they make requests of the American Legion? AMVETS? VFW? NAUS?
We cannot know the answer to these questions but we can make some educated guesses. We suspect that indeed the Yale Law Clinic made the same request of the other National Veterans Service Organizations, and were quietly turned down. But not by all. In addition to the VVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and several other organizations also endorsed the Veteran.
Still, one wonders why the VVA would even entertain this highly-charged and volatile political move.
Then we wonder why the National Board addressed this issue directly without holding it until the annual VVA convention for the delegates to address, or putting it out to the states to poll their members. Perhaps they felt there was too long a wait for that, yet that still does not excuse such a precipitous act by the National Board.
And of course, we wonder why the National leadership of VVA would spend time, effort and risk the wrath of their membership on a question involving a non-Vietnam Veteran, especially in light of their lack of effort on behalf of the Blue Water Navy legislative issue. That they would do so with such a political hot potato issue boggles the mind.
John Rowan has been president of the VVA for seven years. If decisions like this are a hallmark of his stewardship of his Vietnam Veteran peers, then perhaps it is time for a change in leadership, and a good housecleaning in their main office.
Lest you think this is a non-issue, it is still evoking a great uproar among state and local VVA officials and members across the nation. Many have sent letters of protest to VVA HQ. Some have resigned from the VVA.
To our knowledge, they have not received a response. This is another sign of a leadership failure.
Clearly this was an action motivated by political philosophy, rather than due process and openness. Quite frankly, we think this was an action more in tune politically with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, not with the VVA.
Once again, VVA has reneged on its responsibility to its members, and to all Vietnam Veterans.
Meanwhile, thousands of Vietnam Veterans, who are in need of assistance with the government to regain their status under the Agent Orange Act, go without so much as a murmur from VVA HQ.
What a shame. What a sham.
”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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