Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your Help Needed on an Urgent Matter [repost]

Fellow vets. As you all know, the Gold Star Mothers is an organization of women who have lost a son or daughter in combat. Renowned artist Andrew Chernak has been commissioned to design and sculpt the National Gold Star Mothers Monument in Washington, D.C. Chernak, of suburban Philadelphia, recently unveiled the original Gold Star Mother’s monument in Putnam, New York. Below is a photo of the Putnam monument, dedicated in early July of this year.
A US Army Vietnam vet, Chernak needs help locating photographs of deceased Navy and Air Force veterans and their Gold Star Mothers. The plan is to etch and carve the photographs into the granite base. He has arranged for Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corp photos, but needs the Navy and Air Force Gold Star Mothers and their sons or daughters.

Preferred are full face photos of both the Gold Star Mothers, and of their sons or daughters in Uniform.

Anyone in contact with a Gold Star Mother who would be willing to submit a photograph of herself and another of her son or daughter should please put them in contact with Mr. Chernak at the following email address:
gsmmemorial@vetsnet.us

Thanks, Veterans, for all you have done. We must also never forget to thank the Mothers of the sons and daughters who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The sacrifice of the Gold Star Moms must be counted, remembered and honored as well.

Thank you in advance for all your help on this matter, and thank you again for all you've done.

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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."
--President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

No Man Should Have To!

It was spring of 1996. The pain lasted for over a week. For a week he had treated it with antacids, and they had provided periodic relief. But the pain kept coming back. On Thursday, while driving to work, he coughed, deep, and his head swam briefly. When he opened his eyes, he could only see out of the left one, the right one showed only a small hole of vision but it was looking down and to the right. He wadded up a tissue and stuck it under the right lens of his sunglassses, and drove one-eyed the rest of the way to work.

By Sunday night he was drinking Pepto Bismol right from the bottle. He'd sit in the chair in the bedroom pushing his breastbone into his chest as that killed some of the pain. By 5 AM he had begun to throw up blood, likely from the antacid abuse over the past week, but he was convinced it was his stomach.

His wife had remained downstairs all night, knowing what was happening, but too worried and afraid to say anything about it. She waited. Finally he called down about the blood. He said, "Make the call."

She called the on-call HMO physician who instructed her to hang up the phone and immediately get him to the hospital. On the way in he smoked a cigarette, reasoning that if they cut open his stomach he would not be allowed to smoke for days. As they neared the hospital, he told her to go around the block so he could have one last smoke. She ignored him, pulling up in front of the ER doors she said, sharply, "Get the Hell in there! Now!" He'd already had his last smoke. He hasn't smoked a cigarette since.

At the emergency room they did a quick EKG and laid him onto a gurney in the ER. He tried to tell them, "No left arm pain, no nausea, no fainting or dizziness, just sharp unremitting pain. No family history of heart trouble, but plenty of family history with stomach woes."

They started an IV of Nitro, and another of synthetic Morphine. Nothing was touching the pain.

The doctor wanted to do a procedure called a heart catheterization.

He asked the Doctor, "What are the risks if we don't?"

The Doctor coldly replied, "Death".

In the corner, his wife started to weep.

"But I feel fine, I just hurt like Hell!"

They gave him some clot-busting medications and sent him up to ICU. His wife went to work.

In ICU a male nurse calmly told him he was an a**hole. He needed the procedure and they should do it as soon as possible. Somehow, it registered, and he relented. By this time they had to contact his wife at work to get her permission because of all the drugs he had been given.

They rushed him to the Heart Catheter Lab, and did the procedure -- three balloons worth. A rather long blockage in one of the major arteries.

That night, around midnight, he sensed a presence and looked toward the door of his ICU bay. There was a man standing there.

The man asked, "Mr. Reynolds?"

"No, I'm Wilson."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I was supposed to come in and pray with Mr. Reynolds."

"That's okay, Padre, come on in, I'll never turn down a prayer."

They prayed together for a half hour, and the minister left to find Mr. Reynolds.

Two weeks later on a followup to his hospitalization, the family Doctor told him they had revised the criteria for Diabetes, and he had Type II Diabetes. He prescribed medication and a careful diet.

In 2000 he had another episode with his heart, and another balloon angioplasty. Another in 2002.

By then the diabetes was in full control of him. He was taking three different pills at maximum dose and giving himself shots in the gut of a long lasting Insulin every night. He had added fifty pounds all around his middle. He was having trouble at work: fatigued, he would sleep much of the day, on the way to and from work, and when he got home, would go to bed early. Day after day it was the same.

A friend came by one day to compare notes on the Diabetes. He was a Vietnam Vet, a Marine, and he was getting a 50% disability for the Diabetes for exposure to Agent Orange.

He tried it, opening a claim online in the summer of 2003, knowing even if he lived, he could not work much longer, and they were just two years into a new house. He had to have some income.

In 2004, after his fourth heart attack, he got his first stent.

Three weeks later he received his denial from the VA. "You did not serve in Vietnam! You never set foot in Vietnam!"

Two weeks after that he retired on half pay from his career, unable to work any more.

He applied for Social Security Disability and was denied before he got all his paperwork in. For the next two years he sweated out the appeal process, finally winning at a court hearing in 2006. 3 blockages in the heart of more than 50%. Same condition as when he first filed. The retro money helped, but was not a final answer.

Then he heard about the latest on the VA's refusal to grant disability under Agent Orange to Blue Water Sailors. It took an officer named Haas to finally get the court's attention. They overturned the rule requiring actually being "in country".

He immediately filed again. It is still pending as the VA fights the ruling in the courts, hoping to deny covering Navy vets of the Vietnam War.

But why all the battles? Is it not enough to battle the diseases? The heart, the loss of his teeth, the peripheral neuropathy in his lower legs and feet, the skin problems, and the depression that goes along with having to fight a battle for survival every day, knowing in the end he would lose, but fighting it, so he could fight another battle, to provide for his widow after he is gone. Fighting and fighting. Fighting...his own government, the very agency that was created to care for him in return for service.

It is an emasculating concept that forty years ago when he went to war it didn't count...even though he volunteered, it didn't count...even though he engaged in combat operations, it didn't count...even though his own government had sent him literally around the world so that he could fight there, it didn't count...even though he served in a “Combat Zone”, it didn’t count…even though he received Combat Pay, it didn’t count…even though he was likely exposed to dioxins, it didn't count...that in the end, he didn't count.

And so, day after day, he fights his own deteriorating body, so he can fight his own government, so his wife won't have to fight to keep the house after he dies, so she can have enough money to bury him.

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Don’t Look for Help from Walter Reed Scandal

In a posting to the Blue Water Navy discussion group last evening, we wrote:

“…In other words, they [Congress, the VA, and the Administration] have no respect for us whatsoever. Indeed, the only reason Vets are getting any attention at all is because the Walter Reed story hit a liberal newspaper, and the liberal press seized on it as another way to make the Bush Administration look bad. A Dem in the Whitehouse won't make a tinker's damn of a difference either: same mouth, different side.

It will blow over soon, and we will once again return to the Sisyphean task of filing form after form, letter after letter, appeal after appeal, all the while continuing to bury shipmate after shipmate, and to console widow after widow.

Is it time for another Bonus Army? Will Bush send Peter Pace after us with Mounted Cavalry using swords and bayonets on our loved ones in a tent city on the mall, just as Hoover did via MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton in the early 1930s?”

In 1924 Congress authorized the payment of a $1,000 bonus to men who served in WW I. But the payment was deferred until 1945. Even in 1945, $1,000 was a lot of money. Then in the late 1920s and early 1930s, crushing depression struck the United States [indeed, it struck most of the world.], and men went without work. It was a demoralizing blow to a proud workforce that was raised on the old Puritan Work Ethic. Long term unemployment robbed men of their ability to provide for their families, and many took to the rails as transients going to seek work, or Hobos, or just as tramps, basically emasculated by the depth of the economic collapse.

Some of the Veterans thought that Congress should pay them their bonus early to help in this national emergency, and indeed, Congress contemplated it, floated several bills to authorize it, none of which were successful. In early 1932, during the closing days of the disastrous Hoover Administration, about 20,000 Veterans from all over the country marched on Washington, D.C. to apply pressure on Hoover, and Congress to pass the legislation authorizing the early release of the bonus money. Many of the men brought their families along. The legislation was the Patman Bill in the House of Representatives, named for its original sponsor, John William Wright Patman, a WW I veteran himself. The bill passed the house.

The Veterans built a tent city across the Anacostia River from the District, calling it Hooverville. Some actually set up a smaller version right on the Mall in the capital. Others occupied buildings under construction by the Federal government, halting construction.

In mid-June the Patman bill had been defeated in the Senate. Congress then authorized a fund to pay for transportation home, and some Veterans accepted this money and left. Two weeks later there was a confrontation between the D.C. police and remaining Veterans in the construction project. Two Veterans were shot and killed, and several policemen were injured. The Veterans held their ground. The D.C. government informed Hoover [they should have informed Congress as it is Congress, not the President that administers the District of Columbia] it could not control the “Bonus Army” or remove it.

Hoover ordered General in Chief Douglas MacArthur to clear the camps and construction sites of the Veterans, sending them home. MacArthur called on the 12th Infantry Regiment, and the 3rd US Cavalry under command of Major George S. Patton. {Note: Posse Comitatus does not apply to Washington, D. C., as it is Federal territory. Thus, US regular troops could be used against US citizens there.] MacArthur’s aide, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was part of the process, too.

MacArthur attacked with tanks, cavalry and troops, as well as tear gas, and bayonets.
Wikipedia lists the following casualties:
  • Two veterans were shot and killed.
  • An 11 week old baby was in critical condition resulting from shock from gas exposure.
  • Two infants died from gas asphyxiation.
  • An 11 year old boy was partially blinded by tear gas.
  • One bystander was shot in the shoulder.
  • One veteran's ear was severed by a Cavalry saber.
  • One veteran was stabbed in the hip with a bayonet.
  • At least twelve police were injured by the veterans.
  • Over 1,000 men, women, and children were exposed to the tear gas, including police, reporters, residents of Washington D.C., and ambulance drivers.
  • The Veterans were routed, and the camps burned and destroyed.
But this was not the end of the Bonus Army. Just as the camps had been destroyed, so, too, had the Hoover administration. Pitting United States Army troops against Veterans who had fought and won World War I, and doing so in the streets of the nation’s capital, was a killing blow to Hoover, who had opposed the early payment of the bonus by claiming insufficient money to pay it. [Sound familiar?].

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in a landslide in the 1932 elections, and took office the following March. It did not take long before the Veterans were back. Bonus Army II was handled much differently than the first one. FDR was politically adept, unlike the bewildered Hoover who often appeared like a deer caught in the headlights – frozen in his tracks, unable to decide what action, if any, to take. He sent his wife Eleanor to talk to the Veterans, and offer them work. There was a project to extend US Route 1 from the Florida mainland to Key West, and the Federal government was paying for it. It was part of FDR’s New Deal policy to provide jobs for the massive numbers of unemployed, as he felt private business was unable to do so because of the banking failures over the previous five years. FDR did not want to pay the Veterans either, but felt the need to do something. So he sent his wife to have coffee with them, and talk things out.

Hundreds signed up.

Unfortunately, on September 2, 1935, the infamous category 5 Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys, killing 259 of the Bonus Army Veterans working on the road. The public outcry was overwhelming. A shamed Congress quickly passed legislation authorizing the payment of the Bonus money, and overrode Roosevelt’s veto.

As one of the shipmates on the Blue Water Navy discussion group noted today [about another subject, though apropos here], history does have a habit of repeating itself. Once again, Veterans are dying while the government “backs and fills” to avoid meeting a promise it made years ago to Veterans of Vietnam.

So while the despicable and very real condition at Walter Reed occupy the attention of the nation,
“…It will blow over soon, and we [the Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam] will once again return to the Sisyphean task of filing form after form, letter after letter, appeal after appeal, all the while continuing to bury shipmate after shipmate, and to console widow after widow”

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Correction on Ribaudo

We apologize, our March 12 post reporting the Ribaudo stay being lifted is in error. The following message from the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) was posted this evening on the Blue Water Navy message board, and also on the Blue Water Navy website. Please read it carefully, and several times as it can be confusing. There also is some meaning to it which we will discuss later:
There have been many rumors flying around about the status of the two important Blue Water Navy cases – Haas and Ribaudo. In an attempt to clear up confusion, the following is the status as of 3:30 PM, March 14, 2007:

Haas: This case is currently on Appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (not the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims). After the Court granted several extensions, the government’s initial brief was due to be filed with the Court on March 2, 2007. On March 2, 2007, the government filed a motion for an extension of time until March 7, 2007 to file the brief. On March 6, 2007, we filed an opposition to the VA’s motion for an extension of time. The government submitted a brief to the Federal Circuit on March 7, 2007. However, the brief has not been accepted for filing by the Court, since the Court has not yet ruled on the March 2, 2007 motion for an extension of time.

Ribaudo: This case is currently at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. On January 26, the Court issued a temporary stay of the adjudication of all Haas-like claims at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the VA Regional Offices. This temporary stay is in effect until the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issues an order either revoking the temporary stay or granting the VA’s Motion for Stay (see below). Our most recent filing in this case was on February 7, 2006. On that date, the Court accepted for filing our opposition to the VA’s motion for stay of the Haas decision (which the VA filed in Ribaudo for some reason). There are currently three motions awaiting a decision in this case:

  1. The VA’s motion to stay the effect of Haas pending the outcome of its appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit;

  2. Our motion requesting that the Court hold the VA in contempt for its violation of a January 9, 2007 Court Order; and

  3. Our motion to dismiss the VA’s motion for a stay of proceedings (since we believe it should have been filed in Haas and not in Ribaudo).

I hope that clears up some confusion. I will keep this site [Blue Water Navy]updated with the latest relevant happenings in either case (aside from non-substantive, routine motions by either party). It will likely be many more months, and possibly longer than a year, before these cases are resolved. I also request that people with general questions about the status of these cases refer to this website [Blue Water Navy] instead of directly contacting NVLSP. It has been difficult to keep up with all of the emails and telephone calls, most of which could have been avoided merely by checking this website.

Thank you!

-NVLSP

Again, we apologize for misinterpreting the court's actions with their administrative handling of cases on their website.

It would seem to us that if the USCAFC [United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit] rules against the request for extension in the Haas case the appeals of it are over. That, then should make moot the stay in Ribaudo. So one positive outcome of this whole thing hinges on that particular decision. Decisions on requests for extensions of filing deadlines for briefs are not usually that difficult to make.

On the other hand, the USCAVC [United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims] taking as long as it is to decide to either uphold the writ of mandamus or uphold the stay order seems to favor the latter, as they must be digging for case law to support the stay.

Still we think the remedy for the Haas appeal lies not in the courts but in Congress.

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Flash! Ribaudo Upheld!

Perhaps someone from the National Veterans Legal Services Program can correct me, but here is what we believe happened in regard to the Ribaudo v. Nicholson case:

Considering the original opinion in Ribaudo was reposted on March 7, with an effective date of March 2, it appears as though the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims took a dim view of the delaying tactics employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our guess is the USCAVC granted the opposing motion filed on March 6th, and granted that motion on March 7th, retroactive to March 2, the original deadline.

Assuming that is correct…

Ribaudo has been upheld! Cases will now proceed to be processed in normal order.

[caveat: there is language in the dissenting opinion by Judge KASOLD, that distinguishes between cases on appeal at the Board and cases in claim status at the board, which have not yet been adjudicated. If this very confusing language in Judge KASOLD’s dissent is what I think it is, he is in essence telling the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that the Ribaudo decision only affects cases under appeal, not those in various conditions of the claims process, new claims, or claims that have been decided but not appealed. However, this is the dissenting opinion, and as such has no binding in law.]

…One final hurdle has to be surmounted – the appeal of Haas. This is scheduled [last we heard] for argument sometime this Summer with a decision either in late Summer or early Fall. It is unlikely that many cases will be approved in that period, given the current overload from the Iraq war, the Gulf War, and the Global War on Terror, and given the probability that there are few Blue Water Navy Vietnam Agent Orange claims currently pending on appeal, or in processing.

What this all means is that Blue Water Navy claims currently under appeal will be processed in their normal place in the Department’s docket; Blue Water Navy claims currently in process will be processed in their regular order, and prior Blue Water Claims that were approved and then paid, but were then stopped and recouped, may now be reopened and repaid; claims previously denied based on “feet on the ground” and not appealed, should be reopened and reevaluated, retroactive to the date of the initial claim, and we believe Nehmer [benefits must be paid retroactive to the date of the claim] should be in play for this, otherwise, we will need to see Nehmer expanded to include cases denied under rules later reversed by the courts.

Hang in there fellow Blue Water Vets! Justice is finally arriving for us.

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Updates & Info

As of this posting, there is still no word on whether the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to chase their appeal of the stay order issued in the Ribaudo case.

Ribaudo resulted in the writ of mandamus ordering the DVA to immediately begin processing claims under the Haas ruling of last fall. Subsequent to Haas, the Secretary of the DVA ordered his own stay of those claims affecting Blue Water Navy vets under the Haas ruling. The US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims took exception to the Secretary in effect usurping the power of the court and ordered manadamus in Ribaudo.

The DVA has had a number of extensions to the original deadline of one week after the USCAVC issued a temporary stay granted to the DVA under their appeal of Ribaudo. Apparently the DVA is having trouble getting approval for the appeal from the Solicitor General of the US. [Doesn't surprise us! Somebody in the federal legal system has to have some smarts, don't they?] The latest deadline was yesterday.

Stay tuned. As always, expect bad news, rejoice when it's not.

Late update: The NVLSP has filed an opposing motion seeking to stop the granting of an extension of time to the Department of Veterans Affairs to file their appeal. There is some confusion as to when the motion was filed, likely either Tuesday the 6th, or Thursday the 8th.

********************************************************************************
In reference to the Special Extra Earnings for Military Service, here are some further details.

It is unlikely that this provision will have much effect at all on your Social Security benefits if you have earned more since serving in the military than you did while on active duty. When computing your benefits, the SSA goes back as far as it can and takes a large number of whole years' earnings. If you have periods of broken active duty service, or active duty for training, you can have SSA add $300 for every quarter in which you served on Active Duty (this includes regular enlistment periods of 6 months to four years, depending on your enlistment contract.) Now, if you go back to the Vietnam Era, for example, the SSA has tables that re-compute your earnings then into 2007 dollars. Still, most enlisted personnel will find that unless they have since had a lifetime of low income work, their annual earnings will far surpass the adjustment made to years in which you had Special Extra Earnings for Military Service.

Anyone who served in the Reserves may not have all the dates of their qualifying active duty service on the DD-214. So make sure you request your records from the National Archives and look for other pages besides the DD-214 which detail all your active military duty. SSA does not on its own look for it, but goes by your DD-214.

It is a good idea to request your records now, so that you will have them if you need them, even though you feel you may never file a claim. When you retire, it may come in handy. A link to obtaining records is in the link list on the sidebar.

So, if you are now receiving Social Secutrity benefits, Retirement, or Disability, or you contemplate applying for those benefits, or are in the process of applying for those benefits, please make sure you request this provision.

********************************************************************************
We are adding a few links to the sidebar. One link is to the Blue Water Navy Yahoo Discussion Group. Other links are to the Veterans Service Organizations that are appropriate to our cause here.

********************************************************************************
Finally, thanks to all our new subscribers! It helps to know so many of you are out there and are concerned with this issue. Please note, we intend no diminution of the current crises being reported in the media daily about the VA, the Walter Reed [and other hospitals] scandals. Our war was fought approximately, 35-50 years ago, some of us have been getting sick right from the start, others just recently -- that is the nature of dioxin exposure, it runs by no specific timetable. We are, quite frankly, ashamed of the Department of Defense over the treatment of the wounded coming home from Iraq, and being housed in absolute squalor in an institution as renowned as Walter Reed Army Medical Center. We are also incensed that those same veterans are forced to prove their claims of disability even while living at Walter Reed, and still on active duty with the Army! We are outraged at the VA's data losses from lost computers and hard drives, at the unreasonable processing time for a VA claims, and the insulting exclusion of Naval Veterans from Agent Orange presumptive eligibility, despite the original legislation, and despite the reversal recently by the US COurt of Appeals for Veterans Claims in the decision in Haas v. Nicholson. Quite frankly, we find it not only puzzling, but reprehensible that the past four Secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs, all Vietnam Veterans, especially Jim Nicholson, a Navay Vietnam Veteran, would so choose to leave their comrades behind. Such despicable acts are beneath contempt.

Staty tuned for further updates!

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.