Friday, March 08, 2013

FRA AO Legislative Agenda Statement


The Fleet Reserve Association has been a staunch supporter of efforts to regain the presumptive eligibility for exposure to AO for Blue Water Navy Veterans.  At the Joint House and Senate VA Committee hearing on March 6, 2013, Mark A. Kilgore, National President of the Fleet Reserve Association [FRA], which, presented its legislative agenda for 2013. 

Here is the President Kilgore’s FRA statement regarding Agent Orange:

Agent Orange

"From 1964-1975 more than 500,000 service members were deployed off the coast of Vietnam and may have been exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide used in Vietnam. Past VA policy (1991-2001) allowed service members to file claims if they received the Vietnam Service Medal or Vietnam Campaign Medal.

"The Association appreciates the establishment of a presumptive service-connection for Vietnam veterans who have B cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease or ischemic heart disease.  These diseases are related to exposure to Agent Orange.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s decision was based upon an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 report and this is a major step in the right direction, but FRA is advocating for a broader Agent Orange service-connection.

"However, a January 2013 VA statement referencing a careful review of another IOM report in 2011, entitled, “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure,” indicates that there is insufficient evidence to establish a presumption of exposure to herbicides for Vietnam veterans who served off the Vietnam coast during the conflict.

"FRA believes that decision maintains the status quo regarding disability claims of these so-called “Blue Water” veterans and that the IOM report validated the 2002 Royal Australian Navy study that confirmed the desalinization process used on Australian and U.S. Navy ships actually magnified the dioxin exposure.  The Association continues to seek a legislative remedy to reverse current policy so Blue Water veterans and military retirees who have health problems commonly associated with herbicide exposure will be eligible for service-related VA medical and disability benefits.

"FRA notes the VA’s efforts to expand presumption to ships exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam era.  In January 2012 the Department added 47 ships to its list of Navy and Coast Guard vessels that may have been exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide.  The list expanded as VA staff determined that a ship anchored, operated close to shore or traveled on the inland waterways and was exposed to the toxic herbicide.

"While the expanded VA policy to include veterans who sailed on “inland waterway” ships is significant, FRA believes it does not go far enough.  The Association has received hundreds of calls from “blue water sailors” and their surviving spouses, stating that due to service on “their ships” in Vietnam waters, they too suffer or have died from many of the illnesses associated to presumed exposure to herbicides as their “brown water” and “boots on the ground” counterparts.

"The Association wishes to thank Representative Chris Gibson (N.Y.) for his introduction of H.R. 543 “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013.”  The bill was introduced with 42 original bi-partisan co-sponsors.  FRA looks forward to the Senate introducing companion legislation and potential hearings on this priority issue of the Association.”

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President Kilgore also testified about the claims backlog, the COLA changes, and a host of other issues. 

FRA has been advocating for Blue Water Veterans almost since the issue arose 11 years ago.  If you are not a member of the Fleet Reserve Association you should be. 

Clickhere to read the FRA’s testimony in full. Click on the top link to open a Word document



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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