Friday, May 27, 2016

FRA: AO Bill in Appropriations bill as amendment

From our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association:
Agent Orange Reform in MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill
The House approved an amendment to its version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bill (H.R. 4974) that would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently presumes any service member who had boots on the ground or served on Vietnam’s inland waterways was exposed to Agent Orange. If these veterans experience health problems related to that exposure, they are eligible for VA disability benefits. The policy, however, denies this presumption to veterans who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam, even though many of these so-called “Blue Water Navy” veterans are experiencing the same exposure-related health problems as those who served inland.

The passage of this amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY), is a major step forward for Blue Water Navy veterans, who should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. The Senate passed its version of the MilCon/VA spending bill, without this provision. There will be a conference committee appointed to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center at action.fra.org/action-center/ to ask their senators to support this House provision in the final version of the bill, which will be voted on by both chambers and, if approved, sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.
As we have said repeatedly, if you are not a member of FRA, you should be.  Join this fine organization today!  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

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Now the Senate

The Senate version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, S.2806, was reported out of committee on April 18th of this year.  That is, the committee offered the bill to the floor of the Senate.  This version of the bill, in addition to the version passed by the House last week will have to be reconciled, to make them the same, or to change what the House version has in it.  Most likely Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, will set up a Conference committee to iron out the differences. 

Our preference is for the Senate to accept the House version and pass it.

As this is a major funding bill, the Senate will likely not waste any time in moving the bill, either passing it unchanged, or modified and returned to the House.  At some point both houses must agree on the language of the entire bill in order to have it enacted.

In this election season, the conventions are coming up and the primaries are ending.  Congress will go into recess soon, next week for the Holiday, near the end of June, briefly, and after two weeks in July.  Then they recess for the Conventions.

Please, contact BOTH your Senators and extract their promise to keep the Blue Water Navy amendment in the bill, no matter which version gets passed.  Keep the pressure on!

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

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finally! The House passes the BWN bill!

This information comes from the weekly newsletter by by the VFW:
House Passes Amendment for Blue Water Navy Benefits: An amendment to the House-passed version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. Currently, only those Vietnam veterans who were “boots on the ground” or served on the inland waterways are eligible for the presumption.  This would mean eligibility for health care and compensation for thousands of veterans. The inclusion of the amendment came on the heels of a Washington, D.C. press conference organized by its sponsor, Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY), and attended by the VFW. The passage of this amendment is a major victory, as the VFW has long advocated that Blue Water Navy veterans should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. Still, the amendment must pass the Senate. Be on the lookout for an Action Alert on this issue next week, and feel free to begin contacting your Senators today to let them know that this is a top priority!  To read the Military Times article about the amendment, click here:

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/05/19/house-votes-expand-benefits-vietnam-blue-water-navy-vets/84602742/ 

A check with the Congressional website says House Amendment 1078 offered by Representative Christopher Gibson of New York, was approved for inclusion in the bill by a voice vote.

Here is the language of the Amendment [it was corrected from an earlier attempt so it would conform with Congressional procedural law]:
  "At the end of the bill, before the short title, insert the following: 
 Sec. __.  None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to enforce VA Adjudication Procedure Manual M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section H, Topic 28.h related to Developing Claims Based on Service Aboard Ships Offshore the RVN."
What this does is forces the VA to treat any BWN claim to have been exposed inside the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam the same as any claim from on land or Brown Water.  Now, in all likelihood, the VA will interpret the territorial waters to be the most restrictive, probably 10 miles off shore. 

A HUGE thank you to Representative Christopher Gibson from New York who circumvented the House Committee on Veterans Affairs where the BWN bill was locked away, and by a simple paragraph, reworded with the assistance of Representative Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania, and the result is the BWN benefit restoration is on the way to the Senate, funded, and with the full backing of the House.


Stay tuned this week.  And contact your Senators, both of them, and pressure them to advance the amendment intact. 

More to follow!

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

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Friday, May 20, 2016

USS Zumwalt DDG 1000 Commissioning in October

One of the true heroes to come out of the Vietnam War is Admiral Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt, Jr.  Zumwalt was commissioned from the Naval Academy in June of 1942, and immediately went to the Pacific to serve in Destroyers, the USS Phelps DD 360 and later in USS Robinson DD 562 in the Philippines liberation campaign.   Robinson was integrally involved in the Battle of Surigao Strait, and Zumwalt was awarded a Bronze Star with V for Valor for his work in Robinson's Combat Information Center as an evaluator.  His career afloat was in Destroyers, with the exception of a stint in USS Wisconsin BB 64.

During the Vietnam War, Admiral Zumwalt served in the dual role of Commander Naval Forces Vietnam and Chief of the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command Vietnam [MACV].  During that time he was in command of the "Brown Water Navy", the small craft that ran the creeks and rivers, and estuaries of the Republic of South Vietnam.  His son, Elmo R. Zumwalt III served in the Riverine Navy and later died from multiple cancers certainly the result of exposure to the deadly Dioxin, the active poison in the Rainbow Herbicides [Agents Orange, Blue, etc.].  He later became perhaps the best "sailors' Admiral to serve as Chief of Naval Operations.  He was known there for his innovative ideas and concepts toward replacing the aging WW II fleet, and for his Z-grams, with which he kept in touch with every sailor in the US Navy.  He changed personnel policy allowing longer hair, beards and mustaches, beer in barracks, and expanded when sailors would wear civvies, among other personnel related issues..  In short, he made life a bit more relaxed for the sailors.  He championed racial equality, though it was a tough fight against long-serving enlisted and commissioned personnel. 

The loss of his son spurred Zumwalt to research, fundraising for more research and eventually, to create the document that became the Agent Orange Act of 1991.  Admiral Zumwalt died in 2000, after a fight against mesothelioma, attributed to exposure to asbestos while in the Navy.  Two years later the Veterans Administration removed the Blue Water Navy from presumptive exposure to Agent Orange, thus kicking them out of the coverage for AO related diseases. 

Now we come to the well-deserved honor bestowed on his memory and his heritage.  The USS Zumwalt DDG 1000, the first of its class of Guided Missile Destroyers, was recently christened by his two daughters in a pier-side ceremony at Bath Iron Works Shipyard, Bath Maine.  The ship will undergo more shakedown and systems testing over the summer and into the fall, until October 15, 2016, when the USS Zumwalt DDG 1000, will be commissioned as a United States Ship, during Fleet Week in Baltimore, Maryland.  The ceremony is to take place next to Fort McHenry.

We are pleased to announce that we have become sponsors of the USS Zumwalt and will be attending the Commissioning event.  Anyone else who would like to become a sponsor should visit this website:

USS Zumwalt DDG 1000 Commissioning.

As is noted on the website:  "Sponsorships and individual donations will ensure a healthy USS Zumwalt Crew and Legacy Fund for the 30-year life of the ship: a fund managed by trustees whose mission is to support the enlisted crew in the spirit of Admiral Zumwalt." 

For all of us who served in Vietnam, and those who came after us, we all recognize the legacy that the Admiral left with the Navy, particularly with the enlisted men.  Perhaps it is time for us to pay it forward, and return a portion of that good will and hard work of his, and donate to the USS Zumwalt Crew and Legacy Fund. 

Contributions can be made online ( www.usszumwalt.org ) or via check made payable to:
            USS Zumwalt Crew and Legacy Fund
            2825 Eagles Mere Court
            Ellicott City,  MD 21042
 
Without Admiral Zumwalt there likely would be no Agent Orange Act of 1991.  That alone should be enough to open your heart and your wallet.  

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

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.