Friday, October 02, 2015

FRA Keeping the Pressure on Senate for BWN

Our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association are at  it again.  This time in a meeting with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

SVAC Reviews Veteran Toxic Exposure
FRA National Executive Director (NED) Thomas Snee attended a recent Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) hearing on concerns about toxic exposure impact on veterans and their children. The hearing focused primarily on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) response to toxic exposure issues—the “Toxic Exposure Research Act” (S. 901), the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” and toxic exposure at Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, N.C.

After the hearing, SVAC Chairman Johnny Isakson (Ga.) spoke with NED Snee and requested input from FRA on the overarching issue of toxic exposure. Snee dispatched a follow-up letter to Chairman and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) expressing the views of the Association.
Here is a copy of the letter to Senators Isakson and Blumenthal:
September 30, 2015

The Honorable Johnny Isakson
Chairman Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Isakson:
I would like to follow-up on our discussions from Tuesday’s (Sep 29, 2015) committee meeting on the Toxic Exposure to veterans, and provide Fleet Reserve Association’s (FRA) position on this critically concern matter for many of our veterans. Nonetheless, FRA wants to sincerely thank you, and the committee’s Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal for conducting the hearing this week.

FRA supports the “Toxic Exposure Research Act” (S. 901). It is however important to note, that the Association represents the concerns of the sea services of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Our emphasis from the Association’s advocacy point of view has strongly been in support of the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (S.681/H.R. 969). I am quite aware of concerns expressed by congressional leadership about the budgetary impact of this legislation. A great number of FRA’s members have offered to “round down” there veteran’s benefits as an offset for the enactment of the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act”, but not necessarily the final end-all to responsible appropriations spending to avoid further taxing of our active duty and retiree personnel.

FRA is also concerned about the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-4) and endorses the two year extension enactment of the “Agent Orange Extension Act,” (H.R. 3423).

From 1964-1975 more than 500,000 sea service members were deployed off the territorial waters and coast of Vietnam. Many of these sailors, marines and coast guardsmen were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide used in Vietnam. Shipboard exposures were known to have been in both air filtering and water distillation processes. Past VA policies (1991-2001) allowed service members to file claims if they received the Vietnam Service Medal and/or Vietnam Campaign Medal. However, the VA has implemented a “boots on the ground” policy placing limitations for Veterans to seek any Agent Orange presumptive pay and benefits to well deserving sea service personnel who were embarked or sailed on these ships.

The Association appreciates the establishment and ongoing 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 the Agent Orange contaminants. FRA is strong advocate for expanding and accelerating Agent Orange service-connected benefits from these associated illnesses. The Association continues to pursue legislation that will reverse the current VA policy to enable Blue Water veterans and retirees with these associated health issues and to expedite a quicker resolution for service-connected VA filing, medical and disability payments and receipt of entitlements they are so deserving of.

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 (Tonkin Gulf), they too suffered 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 Australian and Russian navies’ reports are consistent to these findings as well to this justification.

Many Americans would like to forget about Vietnam, but those innocent members afloat, did not know the consequences they were “sailing into”, and we should never forget them as well. We respectfully request that this letter be placed in the record from Tuesday’s meeting.

Sincerely,

THOMAS J. SNEE
National Executive Director,
Fleet Reserve Association
Master Chief Petty Officer, U. S. Navy, Retired
Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist

Cc: Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal
As you can see, the FRA has maintained a steady pressure on Congress, specifically on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  While the House of Representatives is supporting the BWN bill [279 cosponsors as of today], the Senate requires a different type of pressure. 

Make use of the FRA Action Page [click here] to put pressure on the Senate and the House!  

As we have said in the past, if you are not a member of the Fleet Reserve Association, you should be!!   Visit the membership page  [click here].

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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