Monday, January 15, 2007

Latest on Blue Water Navy & Agent Orange

Here is the latest news regarding the VA and the Haas v. Nicholson case. As you know, last summer the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) ruled that the VA’s longstanding policy discriminating against “Blue Water” sailors for Agent Orange presumptive eligibility be overturned. The decision in Haas v. Nicholson means that thousands of Naval veteran’s claims already filed and rejected, appealed and rejected, or unfiled may now move ahead.

However, in early December, 2006, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Nicholson issued a decree sidetracking and stalling all claim decisions from Naval Vietnam Veterans under Agent Orange presumptive rules until the Department of Veterans Affairs can appeal the Haas v. Nicholson decision.

Almost immediately, the National Veterans Legal Services Program filed a writ of mandamus with the CAVC (Ribaudo v. Nicholson) seeking extraordinary relief from Nicholson’s delaying tactics.

The court granted the writ on January 9th. [see the decision by clicking here:
Ribaudo v Nicholson]. The Ribaudo decision states that Nicholson overstepped his authority by attempting to contravene an order of the court. In so doing, he crossed the bounds between the three branches of government [Executive, Legislative, and Judicial] as laid out in the early Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison, to wit: "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

However, in taking the Secretary to task for overstepping his authority, the CAVC also inserted language telling Nicholson what his remedy is, and how and where to file a request for a stay. They also outlined the four criteria for issuing the stay:
(1) The likelihood of success on the merits of the moving party's appeal;
(2) whether the moving party will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay;
(3) the impact on the non-moving party of that stay; and
(4) the public interest.

The VA has decided to file a request for a stay of Haas, and to lift the writ of mandamus in Ribaudo.

Stay tuned folks. The request is to be filed with the same court that overturned the original VA policy against Naval vets in the Haas case. Lets take a look at the four criteria listed above.

The likelihood of success on the merits of the moving party's appeal
Since the request is to be filed in the same court (CAVC) that ruled on the Haas case, it would logically follow that the CAVC would not deem the likelihood of success for the appeal of Haas to be viable. However, courts have issued even stranger rulings than this would be. In effect, the CAVC would be admitting it will likely be reversed on Haas.

whether the moving party will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay
This is the criteria the VA will attack most heavily. Their appeal of Haas, and the subsequent illegal memorandum instructing the Department to sidetrack and suspend decisions on Naval veterans’ claims under the provisions of the Agent Orange legislation is based almost solely on this criteria. Essentially, Nicholson claims that processing the number of claims—he says as many as 500,000—would stress the VA’s staff beyond the breaking point, essentially destroying their ability to handle any claims at all. Further, Nicholson claims the amount of money required to begin paying Agent Orange benefits to Naval veterans exceeds his budgets by “billions” of dollars. In short, he has neither the staff to process the claims, nor the money to pay them. Is this irreparable harm? We think not. Nicholson pointedly ignores another remedy that would solve everything. He could go to Congress and request emergency funding to cover the cost of outsourcing the claims process. It is a one time deal in terms of no more Naval veterans will be created…in fact, the numbers will diminish, as they have been for decades due to the deaths of many Naval veterans who have waited in vain for their government to fulfill its obligation to all those who served. Once the claims are processed and those requiring adjudication are complete, the issue becomes one of maintenance, and that is far easier to handle as part of the regular Congressional annual budget process.

Nicholson would also be required to ask for a second emergency funding bill to cover the cost of paying the claims. Again, once the initial claims are processed, the matter becomes part of the annual budgetary process. At that point, the VA, and Congress will have a much better idea how much this will cost them annually.

the impact on the non-moving party of that stay; and the public interest
The Haas decision, if upheld, will result in the payout of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in claims to Naval veterans, and the cost of processing and adjudicating those claims. Such a hit to the annual national budget would have an effect that might require some sort of tax increase.

Haas will also result in the financial relief of tens of thousands of Naval veterans who have been suffering from Agent Orange exposure for the past several decades, and have been unable to gain any relief from the government. Such financial relief can in many cases result in medical relief as well.

There is an excellent website from which you all can keep up to date on the latest machinations of the VA’s discrimination against the Naval veterans of the Vietnam War. It is called Blue Water Navy. It is run by two very remarkable ladies, Susan Belanger, and Taura King, who have been in this fight for years and deserve a great deal of respect, honor and gratitude for their tireless efforts to assist Blue Water sailors in their fight for benefits that are due them. As they say on their main page:

“Approximately 19 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed in Vietnam between 1963 and 1970 Where do you suppose they went?”

Please visit their website often. Click here:
Blue Water Navy

When I first got involved in this fight in 2003, Taura and Susan were of great assistance to me in helping me with my claim, and with understanding the system. We all did research together, but those two were the ones who came up with the evidence floating around that proves exposure to Agent Orange through ship’s desalinization systems. My hat is off to them, and always will be.

Had the VA, and the Congress not conspired to discriminate against all those who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam during the war, tens of thousands, of those veterans might possibly still be alive today, having received benefits and treatment for the vicious diseases inflicted on those subject to Agent Orange. Others would have enjoyed a better lifestyle, not being forced, for example, to decide between paying for the heat in the winter, or paying for insulin, or chemotherapy drugs. Others who were diagnosed with Type II Diabetes may not have suffered from their secondary diseases of the heart, kidneys, teeth, legs and feet. There is much more.

The decision taken over a decade ago to exclude those who served in the “Blue Water” borders on criminal negligence. It could be that is what Nicholson fears most, the lawsuits that will inevitably pop up from vets, dependents, and survivors.

As far as this sailor is concerned, the VA has never really been there for us. It is time they stood up to their responsibility under the law, and stop killing innocent victims simply because they think they can’t afford to do what the law intended. There is something very wrong with that kind of twisted logic.

What can you do?
Visit the Blue Water Navy website often. Contribute if you can, in time or money, or both, and talent if you have it. Contact your Congressional Representative and Senator. Tell them to support emergency funding for the VA to fund the claims of the Naval vets so long overdue.

File your initial claim if you have not. File to reopen if you have. File an appeal if you have been denied.

If you need further motivation, go to the VA’s website and search for the appeal decisions of Navy vets denied for Agent Orange benefits because of their discriminatory policy. It is gut-wrenching, heart rending reading. But even that cannot match the dozens of emails I received from daughters, sons, and wives of Naval veterans who were forced to watch their loved ones die because the VA would not help. Personally, after a while, I could not go on, and I dropped away from Taura and Susan. I regret that, but the emotional toll was too much. I do not know how they do it. But they have my undying respect for what they have done, and what they do.

Copyright © 2007, The VNVets Blog. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Anonymous02:17

    I support the blue water fiance was on the uss tolovana.he is very sick now. These men served their country, now we MUST support them.
    GOD bless America and the Blue Water Vets!

  2. Brenda14:12

    I also support the blue water vets. My late husband suffered for over 3 decades with a number of symptoms, including diabetes and neurophy. He was stationed on Samuel Gompers and exposed on dry dock in the Phillipines..He is deceased and not hurting,but, now his children are taking the helm..Our claim was denied 3 x's since 1973..Thank you so much for uncovering the lies. God bless!!!!

  3. Brenda14:17

    I also support the blue water vets. My late husband suffered for over 3 decades with a number of symptoms, including diabetes and neurophy. He was stationed on Samuel Gompers. He is deceased and not hurting,but, now his children are taking the helm to finish the job their dad started..Our claim was denied 3 x's since 1973,..Thank you so much for uncovering the lies. God bless you and all who have and are serving!!

  4. Anonymous16:40

    I totally support the potential exposure for veterans off the coast, "Blue Waters Naval Personnel" however your accusations regarding the VA being descriminatory against Naval personnel is very rude and presumptuious. I am a VA employee and i have veterans everyday saying the same thing, the VA hates me blah blah blah, here's the kicker, we do not hate patients, 3/4ths of the staff at VA facilities are veterans themselves, and work and strive to help service and support our fellow brethren. So get this mentality of discrimination out of your mind. We follow our follow ups, i take great offense to your harsh words, because when you direct them at the VA you direct them at all the staff here at the VA.

  5. Anonymous13:42

    To the VA employee:

    If you truly feel this way, then you be the change and affect change in every opportunity you encounter. As a service officer, I see too many "functionaries" in the VA system who fail to take initiative or action when they encounter situations in which the veteran is truly being marginalized. Otherwise, keep acting like the indentured employees in the system who only care about their paycheck, benefits, and retirement. If you'r given any latitude to "help" the veteran, use it like that first sergeant who will go toe-to-toe with the commander over the "problem child" soldeir he believes deserves one more chance. At least give those veterans the same opportunities that those scumbags at ACORN are willing to fight for on behalf of the squatters in our country!

  6. Anonymous07:39

    My husband suffered with diabetes, neuropathy, had a kidney transplant and heart problems from the time he was injured during a rescue mission helicopter until his death Oct 2010. I am just starting the process of submitting a claim. Please pray for me.

  7. First let me caution you that the post you commented to is over four years old.

    As for praying for you, I do, every day, several times each day, pray for you and all the Veterans and Troops, their dependents, widows and survivors.

    Why not join us at the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW] where we are doing something about our plight?

    There you will find some comfort, and support, and an avenue to actually take part in doing something about all this mess the Government has gotten us Veterans into.

    Click the big orange VASVW logo on the left sidebar of this page, and follow the directions.

    Be steadfast!


  8. "Skip"10:24

    I am a member of the VVA on Long Island in NY. I was attached to an Attack Squadron from 1965 to 1968; 1 tour on the USS Kitty Hawk and 2 tours on the USS Enterprise off Vietnam. I was an Aviation Structual Mechanic 2nd Class and was responsible for the upkeep of 1 A-4C aircraft. When my plane was not flying, I was sleeping on the wing, tucked in between the wing and fuselage, not realizing that it probably dropped Agent Orange and then flew thru the AO cloud. I was in-country only for a short period of time to repair a plane. I have a peripheral neuropathy in both legs and diabetes, both AO symptoms. I receive a 30% disability check every month after fighting for compensation for over 4 years. Who knows what else will show up? I used to play sports, now am unable because my legs may collapse at any time. I can't run; I can't jump and have to be careful even walking. But I served my country to the best of my ability and that is all that counts. Thank a Vet!

  9. Thank you for your service Skip, and Welcome Home.

    I would advise you to try to understand that Agent Orange was not sprayed or dropped by the Navy, especially carrier aircraft, and it was not carried on any Navy commissioned ships. Further, it would have been highly unusual for any carrier aircraft to have flown through spray clouds.

    You were exposed to AO when you went in-country, and are fortunate to have been able to prove that to the VA. Your rating should probably be higher, and if you have not had a review in several years you should request a higher rating. You should get a new C& P exam at your nearest VA Medical facility.

    We recommend that you read the following entry on the VNVets Blog:

    copy and paste that link in your browser window.

    Again, thank you for your service!


  10. Anonymous17:43

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Mr. Robert Erhard, Sr,

    Please read the date on this blog post.

    Then, please go to the following website and read what you find there.

    There is not what you think it is.


  12. It doesnt matter that the Navy did'nt carry Agent Orange, to your knowledge. We were just as contaminated as the "boots on the ground GI". Evidence my 4-5 Ischemic Strokes and 1 heart attack. I am being treated now to prevent anymore strokes...

  13. The VA pulls a vacum..we were treated better by the VC.

  14. I suffered 4-5 Ischemic Strokes 1996 and 1 Ischemic Heart Attack 2003. I am a Vietnam Veteran from the USS Fred T Berry DD 858. I have copies of Deck Logs showing we were 4-5 miles offshore in area III. The VA built my attitude to what it is now, I don't care how many so called veterans they have. They are probabily mostly WWII which didnt like us any way. Agent Orange created my cholesteral problems which led to my bad gall bladder being removed, along with 4-5 Ischemic Strokes and 1 Ischemic Heart Attack. The VA ain't worth shit towards veterans, in other words. I like the VC more than I do the VA at this time!

  15. I am a 1966 Blue Water NAvy Veteran with 4-5 IschemicStrokes and 1 1 Ischemic Heart Attack, high blood pressure, high chloesterol, low vitamins and sleep apnea. Claims in for Ischemic Heart. They told congressman I must have high pertension, high cholesterol, ischemic strokes and ischemic heart all connected???? ARENT THEY ALL HEART RELATED>>

  16. Thomas,

    The answer to your question is yes.

    I will now ask you to please stop posting comments to this post as it is 8 years old.

    If you are not getting anywhere with the VA, I suggest you get a new Veterans Representative, or perhaps a Veterans attorney.

  17. VNVets14:27


    I do not know where you think you got information that this blog is part of the VA. It is not.

    I will not post any more of your comments as they serve no purpose here.

    Comments for this post are closed, and comments by you are closed for this blog.

    Complain to the VA. But don't involve this blog as we are NOT part of the VA.


  18. Anonymous12:09

    I served on the USS Mount Hood AE29 from 1975-1978 and was attached during the evacuation of Viet Nam. Boatswain mate has any one been detected with Diabetes during that time

  19. I am sure there have been, however I seriously doubt any have been approved for VA claims due to exposure to herbicides. They stopped spraying a couple or three years earlier. However, if the current legislation gets passed we will have to wait and see what Congress and the VA do about the end date.

  20. Anonymous23:13

    The people are the only power that can change this !! I know.. 20 operations in past 17 years.. CANCER two times.. Two AORTA ANEURYSMS.. Two HEART ATTACKS, eight tubes crammed into my heart.. Sleep Apnea.. oxygen tanks, oxygen base unit, CPAP machine, and a Nebulizer with medications.. Sharp stabbing pains right knee, Lower back.. Left side constantly Numb.. On board, VA listed, USS Okinawa LPH3 (1971).. Health issues listed as relating to exposure .... Denial after Denial

  21. Terry Alesandrini09:24

    Agent Orange or not, I would like the US Navy and the Veterans Affairs to recognize that the USS Milwaukee AOR-2 was deployed in he Tonkin Gulf between Nov,1972 and Feb,1973 and took part in Operation Linebacker II and Operation Cease Fire AND earned the Vietnam Service Medal.

  22. Terry,

    Your comment was posted to a ten year old post. You'd be better advised to click the picture of the ship heading into the storm at the top of the page so it takes you to the current post.

    That said, currently Blue Water Navy Veterans from the Vietnam War are generally not receiving benefits unless your ship entered a port, or went up a river in South Vietnam. No herbicides were sprayed above the DMZ, so duty in Tonkin Gulf would not qualify the Milwaukee for AO Benefits.

    To ask questions or provide more information, please email me using the "email me" link under the EMAIL VNVETS near the top of the left column.

  23. I was aboard the uss mt hood ae 29 doing the fall of Saigon I believe we transported agent orange as we transfer it to other ships I have been plagued with prostate cancer type 2 diabetes both of kidneys have cysts on them is there any possible way I could get help ?

  24. Sorry to hear that.

    Mt. Hood AE 29 is not on the VA's list of ships exposed to AO during the Vietnam War.

    There are two avenues to help you. You can take the long and expensive way way by hiring a military researcher to get into the Mt. Hood's records at the National Archives repository in Adelphi, MD and hope that the Hood's manifests for that period are with the records, or at least the transfers are recorded in the Deck Logs and identified as AO, which is unlikely.

    Or you have a waiting game. The best way to explain this is to refer you to the current post on this blog, which you can access by clicking on the photo at the top of the page. As it turns out Congress is finally going to pass the AO Blue Water Navy Bill...or so they claim.

    Your best bet is with Congress.

    I wish I could offer more help than that but 13 years of fighting this fight has taught me that the only resolution in most cases is through Congress, and Congress moves at it's own pace. And finally, once passed the VA has to change it's procedures in their manuals and it takes some months to do that as they must put the policy change out for public comment and respond to the public comments.

    Fight as hard as you can to outlast that inhumane process. If we could get a decent VA secretary he could make the change happen simply by changing their policy without Congress.


  25. Anonymous13:06

    why isn't the uss sailfish 572 on here my husband was on it and died of prostate cancer

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. If you mean the list in the left column, it is there. That said, that list, as noted at the top, is ONLY a list of ships whose crews received the Vietnam Service Medal. It is NOT the VA list of ships exposed toe Agent Orange.

    You should know that the US House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs moved the Blue Water Navy bill [HR-299] to the floor of the House where it will be scheduled for a vote. If it passes, it must go to the Senate next. Our understanding is the bill will pass this session. When that happens you won't need to worry about ship lists.

  28. i was on board the uss mt. hood ae 29 and i am certain we transported agent orange and we sprayed down the barrels and we were expose to agent orange