Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Poem for Blue Water Navy Veterans

Here is a poem from one of our group. It is quite an eloquent statement.

"Again and Again"
by James F. Mason

Lightning Flashes, Thunder Roars-
Slowly he walks the windswept shores,

With Head bowed low, and a heart filled with despair,
he searches for a safe haven, but one is just not there.

Alone this night in the driving rains
only Jesus the Christ knows of his pains

He weary in heart and confused in mind
that he now only seeks his release from mankind

So he slowly walks, too tired to sleep
He then turns his gaze to the ocean deep.

Then Lightning Flashes and Thunder Roars-
And waters crash on the forbidden shores,

Frothy fingers atop the inviting waves
beckoning him on to a watery grave.

So he walks down to the oceans side
He feels the pull of the surging tide,

And the mariner’s song, on this cold damp night
A promise of rest and an end to his fight

So he steps out into the ocean deep,
A place to rest and perhaps to sleep.

Then Lightning Flashes and the Thunder Roars-
Waters crash again on this empty shore.

And the Devil's laughter on the howling wind,
Is rising and falling... Again and again.

Then with the rising sun, the storm has disappeared
and on the horizon it is now sunny and clear.

Then over the radio air a message so brief
a report of a body floating near the reef.

And in his hands still clutching he
a number of letters from the VA Secretary.

In all the letters the same they read
“your claim is denied, you served on the sea.”

Thank you Jim. Most excellent!

We don't look for things, but sometimes things find us. Earlier, while researching some websites, we ran across a reminder: it struck us as important that the 25th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall is on November 7th through the 12th. We will be in Washington on the morning of the 7th to attend the oral arguments of the Haas vs. Nicholson appeal by the DVA. Maybe that portends something favorable.

Maybe it means the end of “your claim is denied, you served on the sea.”

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Fax Cover to Akaka and Burr

Last week we sent a fax to Senators Akaka and Burr, the two leaders of the Senate Committee for Veterans Affairs, asking them to submit a re-written version of S.2026 that was revised to do just the opposite of that bill: authorize retro benefits for Blue Water Navy Sailors back to the date of claim, thus safeguarding both the Nehmer decision and [hopefully] the Haas decision, which is apparently due November 7. [We will be in the courtroom and will flash the decision to the discussion groups ASAP that day.] [see: Akaka, Burr, Please Introduce This as a Courtesy to BWN Vets! ]

We thought it might be of interest to post the cover letter we used to fax the two Senators:
---------------------------------------
18 September 2007

Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman
Senator Richard Burr. Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
[by FAX]

Senators,

Attached please find a proposed bill that we hope you will introduce, with favorable comments, as a courtesy to the Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War.

This bill will affirm what everyone accepted in 1991 who the Agent Orange Act was meant to include. It will also affirm two court decisions that reversed the policy set by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Nehmer vs. The U. S. Veterans Administration, April, 2002, and Haas vs. Nicholson of August, 2006.

United States Navy Veterans who fought in the Vietnam War did so with honor and loyalty, and with the understanding that, if injured in any way, they would be properly cared for by the United States Government.

Since 2002 this has not been the case. Indeed, the Secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs unilaterally acted to terminate benefits already being paid, and block any further claims by Navy Veterans. This was a reversal of policy and was done without benefit of Congressional action. Secretary Principi instituted the policy reversal and Secretary Nicholson has been zealously defending it in court, even after his own court, in effect, told him it was wrong!

The attached legislation is the opposite of S.2026 that Senator Akaka introduced last week as a courtesy to Secretary Nicholson and the White House.

Please introduce this bill to right the wrong that two courts, and the initial intent of Congress show is wrong.

Not only will you be serving your own constituents, you will be serving the nation, by improving the care given to our Veterans. In a time when the treatment of our Veterans has descended to a pitiable example of government’s wretched and convoluted policies, here is an opportunity to show our military’s new recruits that at least Congress knows when to do the right thing.

Sadly the Department of Veterans Affairs has become an adversary to our nation’s Veterans. The attitude permeates the system from top to bottom. If you gentleman do nothing else in the 100th Congress, please take giant steps to rectify that situation. We believe this legislation would be en emphatic and large step in the right direction.

Respectfully,
--------------------------------------------
We are extremely hopeful of the Haas case at this point. S.2026 was an act of desperation. Someone apparently told the VA and the White House, and the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs that the BWN Veterans were not paying attention. How wrong could they get? Senators Akaka and Burr, and other senators were inundated with faxes, emails, letters and calls denouncing the legislation. We have gotten responses from the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America that insist that S.2026 will not see the light of day -- it will die in committee.

But we caution you all to be even more vigilant, as this piece of legislative garbage may very well wind up as an amendment or a rider on a totally unrelated piece of legislation.

BE VERY WATCHFUL OF CONGRESS. There are not many legislators who can be trusted to do the right thing and bury any attempt to undermine the Hass and Nehmer decisions. We must also be reserved about Haas, as it is , as yet, undecided, at least publically. We think S.2026 was an indication that the decision will be in our favor -- but we do not know that yet. Wait until November 7th.

A positive decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, that upholds the earlier decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, would act as a judicial precedent in any court actions should S.2026 rear its ugly head again, as itself, or in some other format. The power of prayer applied to this weighty problem would be very welcome.

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Announcing a New BWN Forum!

This just in from our shipmate over at BlueWaterNavy.org. A new discussion forum is starting up for Blue Water Navy folks. Here's the scoop:

-----------------------------------------

The Blue Water Navy Group has just found a new home. We will start using a new software package independent of Yahoo! and with many more features.The new discussion board is located at http://bluewaternavy.org/phpBB2/index.php

I will be putting a link to it on the bluewaternavy.org web site.

Those of you who use boards such as Military.com will know this one and already know about the multitude of features, such as having multiple "threads" and meeting rooms. We're going to approach this slowly..... for those of you that are technologically savvy, you'll want to start running while some of the others may still be walking or even crawling. Please have patience. But as your mind races through all the things you want to see happen, jot them down and submit them as ideas to consider. We will try not let the technology be a stumbling block for doing this change-over.

We will be running both boards so that you can get over to the new one, get set up and begin testing it. Create a log-in, (it can probably be identical to what you're using on Yahoo!) fill out your profile as you see fit, and start doing TEST MESSAGES. Please don't start yet with any discussion of blue water navy issues on the new board. Please keep all our current system running just the way it is.... with the added feature that you can go to the new site and start kicking the tires.

At this point, we're not sure when to set a "''cut-over" date. At some point in time, the sooner the better, we will erase all the test messages, and move the discussion to the new board. There are bound to be some awkward situations, and change is always a double-edged sword. But we're convinced it will be well worth the sacrifice. When we do the "cut-over" we "may" leave the old board up so you can refer to topics that appear there... but that will be a very short period of time, such as no more than 2 days.

Tony will be our technology guru and will have access to fiddle with all the features of the board..... as will I. Jeff and Linda Herrin will be given Moderator status. We will want to start off with the same rules as with the current board.... let's keep the topic focused on Blue Water Navy issues. I'm sure there will be some "how does this work" questions, too. We may set up a training room, or something of the sort. This board has the capability of having separate threads for some of those currently "off topic" items like general veteran and veteran advocacy issues. But we're going to try to get everybody up to speed on using the new board before we do any of that. Please have patience. We've got the potential of becoming a major discussion board for veterans and we have a few ideas of our own in that regard.

The TEST MESSAGE period is a great time to play with the board, and ask question about getting things to work right, etc. We'll worry about how we continue the "Beginning User Question" stuff when the time comes. I haven't used either of these yet... but I've found 2 tutorials for this board, at:


and


Let's try to make this go smoothly. Step one is getting familiar and comfortable with the new (for some of us) technology. Step two will be all the great new things we can do... but we're still on step one, so start making yourselves a list of all those great ideas. -JR

--------------------------------------------------------

Thanks JR! As usual a top notch job!

See you on the forums!


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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Akaka, Burr, Please Introduce This as a Courtesy to BWN Vets!

With the deafening silence from the Senate leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee, we have decided to ask Senators Akaka and Burr to introduce our own version of S.2026, AS A COURTESY TO THE BLUE WATER NAVY VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR.
--------------------------------------
110th CONGRESS
1st Session
S.0000

The Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act

To amend title 38, United States Code, chapter 11, to clarify that an award of benefits based on a regulatory presumption established pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1116 after September 30, 2002, can be made effective earlier than the date the regulatory presumption was established, in effect, to the date of the first claim; and to clarify that the presumption of herbicide exposure provided by 38 U.S.C. 1116(f) applies to veterans who served in Vietnam on land or on Vietnam's inland waterways and to those who served only in waters offshore or in airspace above.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
December xx, 2007
Mr. X (by request) introduced the following bill; it is co-sponsored by Senator X
A BILL
To amend title 38, United States Code, chapter 11, to clarify and show the intent of Congress that an award of benefits based on a regulatory presumption established pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1116 after September 30, 2002, must be made effective earlier than the date the regulatory presumption was established, in effect, to the date of the first claim; and to clarify that the presumption of herbicide exposure provided by 38 U.S.C. 1116(f) applies to veterans who served in Vietnam on land or on Vietnam's inland waterways and to those who served only in waters offshore or in airspace above. The determining factor will be receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal, or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal issued for service in the Vietnam War.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; REFERENCES TO TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE.
(a) Short Title- This Act may be cited as the `Agent Orange Fair Compensation Act'.
(b) References- Wherever in this Act an amendment is expressed in terms of an amendment to a section or other provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to a section or other provision of title 38, United States Code.

SEC. 2. CLARIFICATION OF AUTHORITY TO ESTABLISH PRESUMPTIONS BASED ON HERBICIDE EXPOSURE; CONFIRMATION OF RETROACTIVE PAYMENT.
(a) Section 1116 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: `(g) Presumptions established pursuant to this section shall be considered to be presumptions established pursuant to the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Awards based on such presumptions are subject to section 5110 of this title and shall not in any event be made effective earlier than the effective date of the regulation establishing the presumption, but must be made back to the date of first claim, whichever is later.
(b) Applicability- The provisions of section 1116(g) as added by this Act apply to any determination made on or after the date of enactment of this Act, pr prior to it back to the date of first claim except as the provisions of section 5110 apply, concerning a person's entitlement to benefits administered by the Secretary.

SEC. 3. CLARIFICATION OF DEFINITION OF SERVICE IN THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM.
(a) Paragraph (f) of section 1116 is amended by adding to the end of that paragraph the following: `For the purposes of this presumption, a veteran will be considered to have served in the Republic of Vietnam if the veteran was physically present on land in Vietnam, or on its inland waterways, or if the veteran served only on the waters offshore or in airspace above, and received either the Vietnam Service Medal or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Vietnam.'.
(b) Applicability- The provisions of section 1116(f), as amended by this Act, apply to any claim filed on or after February 6, 1991, that is still pending on the date of enactment of this Act, including a claim to reopen or revise a previously denied claim, and to any claim filed on or after the date of enactment of this Act. A claim is pending if it has not been the subject of a final VA decision granting or denying benefits, or if such a decision is currently on appeal before a court. Previously open claims closed subsequent to 2002 shall be reinstated in full. Benefits will be paid to the date of first claim in all cases under this authority, minus any previously paid claims, within the boundaries of section 5110. In all cases under this authority, failure to file an appeal subsequent to a denial after 2002 shall not interrupt retroactive benefits.

[Edited 11/24/2007]

--------------------------------------------

We think enough of this proposed bill to send it by FAX to Senators Akaka and Burr with a request that they jointly introduce the bill with favorable comments, as a COURTESY to the Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War.

As the late, great actress Bette Davis once said, "Hang on boys, you're in for a bumpy ride!"

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Akaka's Excuses, Burr's Silence: Corporations Win, Vets Lose

Here is Senator Daniel Akaka’s statement from the floor of the Senate over yesterday’s uproar concerning Akaka’s proposed legislation that would effectively bar Blue Water Navy Vets from ever receiving benefits under Agent Orange legislation:

--------------------------------------

CHAIRMAN AKAKA’S FLOOR STATEMENT EXPLAINING “BY REQUEST” LEGISLATION

September,12,2007

Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I wish to speak about the meaning of "By Request" legislation and more specifically about my continuation of a long-standing practice in the Veterans' Affairs Committee of the chairman introducing legislation at the request of the administration.

While I expect that those who deal regularly with the Veterans' Affairs Committee, such as the established Veterans Service Organizations, understand the meaning of a bill introduced "By Request," I have recently become aware that there are some veterans who are unfamiliar with this practice and who, therefore, have misinterpreted my recent introduction of certain "By Request" legislation as support for the passage of the bills into law. This is not the case.

Mr. President, as our colleagues know, periodically the administration sends forward to the Congress legislation for consideration. Those measures that fall within the jurisdiction of the Veterans' Affairs Committee are referred by the parliamentarian to our committee. In a tradition that began in the earliest days of the committee, the chairman, as a courtesy to the administration, introduces such bills on a "By Request" basis. This is a courtesy that has generally been extended to every administration and by every chairman, regardless of the party affiliation of the administration or chairman, and one that I am pleased to continue.


When I introduce legislation "By Request," I am taking no position on the legislation. In fact, I introduce such legislation without including any statement or explanatory materials. I do so for the express purpose of both accommodating the administration and ensuring that others are aware of the proposed legislation so that they might analyze it and, if they wish, comment upon it. As chairman, I am committed to the development of the best possible policy in the area of veterans issues and I firmly believe that this goal is most successfully achieved with the free exchange of ideas, not by stifling different points of view.

During this Congress, in accordance with this practice, I have introduced four "By Request" bills, S. 1757, S. 2025, S. 2026, and S. 2027. It is one of these measures, S. 2026, relating to certain Agent Orange issues, that has generated the most confusion among some veterans. I hope that my explanation of "By Request" legislation helps to clear up these misunderstandings.

Mr. President, I have taken no position on any of these four bills and simply introduced them as a professional courtesy to the administration. Indeed, at this point, I do not know whether these bills will receive consideration by the committee. For those who have views on some or all of these measures, I welcome your input. I ask that in providing your views you recognize that my introduction of "By Request" legislation should not be interpreted as a reflection of my views on the content of any such bill.

--------------------------------------

We don’t know about anyone else, but we are underwhelmed by this. It smacks of excuse making and an outright refusal to accept any responsibility whatsoever. It takes no more than five minutes for anyone to realize this piece of proposed legislation is sheer corporate protectionism, and an attempt by the Department of Veterans Affairs to close the back door while waiting to lose the Haas decision. Yes, the legislation was advanced by Akaka as a “courtesy” to the White House, but this originated on Vermont Avenue in the Veterans Affairs Building.

Akaka’s claim of a traditional “courtesy” is weak and unimpressive. A courtesy can be refused, as this piece of political garbage should have been.

Senators talk a big game but when it comes time to be a stand up guy and do the right thing they are seldom anywhere to be seen.

The actions of the entire Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week has been a demonstration of thinly veiled corporate protectionism.

We asked for answers from Senator Akaka and got silence. We asked for help from Senator Burr and got silence.

Veterans have a long memory. We get mailings daily begging for money for Congressional and Presidential campaigns. We have written back asking the candidates to do something about the Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam issue. We get silence, then more pleas for money.

Politics is a two way street. Frankly, I am ashamed of the people in our Senate. Ashamed and appalled at their callous treatment of Veterans of the United States.

Citizens of Pennsylvania ran a program called Operation Clean Sweep two years ago, in an effort to remove unresponsive and irresponsible legislators from the State House. The result was a 50% turnover in the House and 40% in the Senate. Some chose not to fight it, the rest were voted out in the primary and general elections.

We can envision a similar program being just as effective if not more so on a national level.

Veterans will not stand for this kind of treatment. And our young people will see this as a violation of the implied contract between the United States and the people who fight its wars. That will have a deleterious effect on recruiting across the board.

This era of disrespect by a bunch of seedy politicians who mouth platitudes and feign respect for the American Warrior, then turn around and abandon them when their service comes back to affect them medically is simply, totally unacceptable.

The sad part is there is no sense of shame on the part of our legislature. They’ll point fingers elsewhere but not one will stand up and take responsibility for their inactions and misguided actions. Nor will one stand up on behalf of the Veterans.

No more lip service.

The United States Congress is a blight on the nation’s honor.

There will be an accounting in the next few elections.

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dear Senator Burr: An Open Letter

The following letter was faxed to Senators Burr [R-NC], Specter [R-PA], and Casey [D-PA], and Representative Platts [R-PA] this afternoon:
--------------------------------------------

September 12, 2007

Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Burr,

Congratulations on your becoming the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. It is in that capacity that we write to you now.

On Monday, September 10, 2007, we faxed the attached letter to Senator Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, asking him questions regarding a bill he proposed last week, S 2026. The group to which we belong, Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam, is incensed at the Senator’s action. We see it as an attempt to not only circumvent a potentially favorable decision to the Blue Water Navy Veterans Of Vietnam in the current U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case of Haas vs. Nicholson, but also a reversal of the Nehmer decision which ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue benefits retroactive to the date a claim was filed.

We have received no response from Senator Akaka.

Apparently the White House, which sent the proposed legislation to Congress so Senator Akaka would submit it as a courtesy “by request”, is fearful of a decision in the Haas case unfavorable to the chemical companies. Perhaps the President also fears the creation of a new class of potential civil court litigants in a new class action suit against not only the Chemical Companies, but also the U. S. Government. Perhaps he is fearful that this time the Government won’t escape from the litigation, as they did in the previous case.

As a group, we are at a loss to understand why the United States Government, from the White House, to Congress, to the Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting such action, especially at a time of high visibility over Veterans care. Blue Water Navy Veterans Of Vietnam fought with honor and loyalty in the Vietnam War, and deserve the benefits accorded to other Veterans who fought in that war. Scientific evidence exists that backs up that claim [see references in attached letter].

From our point of view as Veterans, seconded by other types of Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has established an adversarial relationship with the men and women it exists to serve. This is in part the result of policies issuing from the White House during several recent administration, and because Congress has not kept an adequate watch on the Department. The DVA has, on its own, or at the direction of Executive and Legislative braanches, changed its mission: The DVA no longer serves the Veterans of the United States, it allows them to apply for benefits through a long and tortuous process that discourages far too many from continuing to seek benefits. In other words, the goal of the DVA is now to find a way to deny benefits to as many Veterans as they can.

In the specific case of the Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam, many Veterans believe there is a deeper, more insidious reason the DVA is fighting so hard to deny us benefits under Agent Orange legislation. We are suspicious that the only reason the DVA is appealing the Haas decision is to prevent the formation of a new class of potential litigants for a new Civil Suit against the chemical manufacturers of the dioxin based chemicals sprayed as defoliants in Vietnam.

If the DVA is fighting us to deny us our due process rights, or if they are attempting to deny us because of the financial burden on the taxpayers, neither reason is legitimate, ethically, morally, or, we believe, legally. The actions of the DVA in the Haas case, and the intent of Senator Akaka’s S2026 are both dishonorable actions on the part of the United States Government.

The DVA exists to fulfill the government’s side of an implied contract with every member who serves in the military of the United States. This DVA does everything in its power to avoid that. Senator Akaka’s bill would make Congress complicit in that avoidance.

Since the passage of the Agent Orange legislation during the administration of President George H. W. Bush, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been working internally to limit, and reduce eligibility for Agent Orange related benefits for Air Force and Naval personnel. The DVA has used their own office of General Counsel to issue “precedents” that serve as a legal basis for denying benefits to whole classes of Veterans. The DVA has exerted undue influence on its own scientific bodies tasked with finding scientific evidence that relates to the effects of dioxin exposure in humans, by quashing the presentation of evidence supporting claims of exposure in Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam. The DVA, having been taken to task twice by their own court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [the Hass decision in August, 2006, and in a ruling in Ribaudo vs. Nicholson in January 2007] for its high-handed and improper methods of issuing policy, has decided to appeal the Hass decision as noted earlier. The case now is awaiting oral arguments.

While all these delays are occurring, Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam are dying at a higher rate than their land-based counterparts. Agent Orange diseases came late to the Blue Water Navy Veterans Of Vietnam, possibly because of the way we were exposed. Rather than being directly sprayed, as happened with troops on the ground, most of us were contaminated through our ships’ fresh water distillation systems, which, according to a scientific study done by the Australian government, not only failed to eliminate the dioxins carried out to sea via runoff, or overspray, but in fact enhanced it by concentrating it. Thus, the sailors off the coast of Vietnam bathed in it, drank it and cooked with it.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand are now providing benefits and medical coverage to their Vietnam Naval Veterans who served so nobly beside our own during the Vietnam War.

Is it not time for the United States to do the same?

Is it not right that the responsibility of the United States is to its Veterans first, before its corporations?

We would like some answers, Senator Burr. We would like to know if you will stand with us. We would like to know if you will work with Senator Akaka to change the language in S 2026 so it does the exact opposite of what it does now and mandates presumptive eligibility for Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War for those who were awarded the Vietnam Service Medal or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Vietnam Service. Further, modify the language of the bill to affirm a prior court decree that claims must be paid retroactively to the date the claim was filed.

This would then both affirm and make moot the Hass and Nehmer decisions.

Senator, we need your help on this issue, and that of every other Senator and Representative in Congress. A great and grave wrong has been done to loyal citizens of this nation who fought for this country and were damaged in the process. We need Congress to step up and correct that wrong in numbers high enough to override a Presidential Veto.

Will you please step up and lead this effort for us, Senator Burr? You will be doing a great and valuable service to your country, correcting a great wrong. You will also be remembered in the hearts of many, many Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam.

Finally, you will be raising the bar in the treatment of Veterans by the United States Government, something that was never as good as it should have been, and has sunk to new depths of late.

Respectfully,

VNVets
http://vnvets.blogspot.com

Attachments:

Letter to Senator Akaka

8. AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF ON BEHALF OF ........... IN SUPPORT OF APPELLEE JONATHAN L. HAAS IN SUPPORT OF AFFIRMANCE OF THE COURT BELOW
Located at:

http://www.bluewaternavy.org/Amicus%20John%20Wells.pdf

Note: If desired, more links to scientific evidence will be provided on request.

CC:

Senator Arlen Specter
Senator Robert Casey
Representative Todd Platts
VNVets Blog [http://vnvets.blogspot.com]

--------------------------------------------

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Senator Akaka, An Open Letter

The following letter was faxed this morning to Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, regarding his proposed legislation [S-2026] to ban Blue Water Navy Veterans from ever receiving benefits under Agent Orange legislation that was passed in 1991:

---------------------------------------------
10 September, 2007

Senator Daniel Akaka
Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
141 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Akaka,

Why?

Why would you propose legislation [S-2026] that would retroactively bar Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam from receiving presumptive eligibility for benefits under Agent Orange legislation passed in 1991?

Why would you propose legislation that flies directly in the face of the August, 2006 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Haas v. Nicholson?

Why would you propose legislation that flies directly in the face of scientific evidence* that connects Agent Orange and other dioxins directly to a rapidly increased death rate among Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam due to Agent Orange related diseases?

Why would you propose legislation that will adversely affect U.S. military recruiting efforts by abandoning care of Veterans affected by wartime conditions, and in this case, conditions created by our own government?

Why would you make an effort to deny Blue Water Navy Veterans benefits for a set of diseases linked to the use of Dioxins in Vietnam, that have caused their death rate to exceed that of those Veterans who served on land in Vietnam?*

Senator, why would you propose legislation that in effect denies an entire class of potential litigants the right to pursue civil court ordered compensation from the chemical companies that manufactured the dioxins used in Vietnam during the Vietnam era?

We can think of only one reason that you would do so: corporate protectionism. We pray we are wrong.

We would love to have you respond to these questions, Senator Akaka, and would gladly publish your response in the same space in which this letter appears –
VNVets Blog, located at: http://vnvets.blogspot.com/.

Certainly, Senator, you or your office, was lobbied to propose this legislation.

We would like to know who those lobbyists represent.

Senator, your website calls you a “strong and vocal advocate for veterans.” We urge you in the strongest terms to live up to that billing by rescinding this proposed legislation, and in fact, reversing its intent to ban Blue Water Navy Veterans from receiving benefits under Agent Orange legislation by aligning it with the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Haas v. Nicholson. Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam fought loyally and honorably in that conflict, and deserve no less.

Again, please be assured that your response to this letter will be published in full and unedited in the same space in which this letter is published
[
VNVets Blog, located at: http://vnvets.blogspot.com/].

Respectfully,

VNVets Blog


*References:

1.
Australian Vietnam Veterans Mortality and Cancer Incidence Studies
Located at:

http://www.dva.gov.au/media/publicat/2006/vietnam_health_studies/index.htm

2.
New Zealand TV3 report on dioxin contamination
Located at:

http://www.tv3.co.nz/VideoBrowseAll/PoliticsVideo/tabid/370/articleID/31428/Default.aspx?articleID=31428#video?articleID=31428


3.
Australian National Service Vietnam Veterans: Mortality and Cancer Incidence
Located at:

http://www.dva.gov.au/media/publicat/2006/vietnam_health_studies/vvnsr/index.htm

4.
EXAMINATION OF THE POTENTIAL EXPOSURE OF ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY (RAN) PERSONNEL TO POLYCHLORINATED DIBENZODIOXINS AND POLYCHLORINATED DIBENZOFURANS VIA DRINKING WATER
Located at:

http://bluewaternavy.org/aussie/aussie_final_report_water.pdf

5.
Co-distillation of Agent Orange in Evaporative Water Distillation
Located at:

http://bluewaternavy.org/aussie/diox-019.pdf

6.
REPORT TO SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ON THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS AND EXPOSURE TO AGENT ORANGE [Zumwalt Report]
Located at:




Note: If desired, more links to scientific evidence will be provided on request.

CC:
Honolulu Office [via fax]
Hilo Office [via fax]
---------------------------------------------

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Letter to the DVA from a Sick Sailor

Our shipmates over at BlueWaterNavy on Yahoo Groups often have terrific things to say about our plight. Frequently there are gems of information that, when compiled from all sources, will be helpful to us. One shipmate shared the following letter written to the DVA in 2005:

-----------------------------------

A Letter To The Department Of Veterans Affairs

Reference: Blue Water Navy and The Co-Distillation of Dioxin [ Agent Orange ]

To Whom it May Concern :
I’m submitting information on my herbicide [agent orange ] exposure while I was in the theater of operations off the coast of Vietnam while serving in the U.S. Navy. Though It is common knowledge that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t recognize compensation claims filed for AO exposure from members of the United States Navy who were on duty in the coastal waters just off Vietnam, I would like to offer the following for your consideration. My reason for doing so is partly because of an article I read recently where it was proposed by members of staff of the Department of Veterans Affairs that they rewrite sections of 38 U.S.C. SEC. 5.262 [A][1] to more clearly state the limits of the presumption of exposure and the presumption of service connection based on exposure to certain herbicide agents. The author states, “We are not aware of any valid scientific evidence showing that individuals who served in the waters Offshore of the republic of Vietnam or in other locations, were subject to the same risk of herbicide exposure as those who served WITHIN the GEOGRAPHIC LAND BOUNDARIES of the Republic of Vietnam,” [for however short a period of time, such as flying into Saigon, getting off the plane and lunching at the officer’s club, then flying on to some other country, etc.].

The Scientific Evidence is what I want to address !!

#1 It is my belief and conviction that the U.S. Navy knew of the dangers and concerns of Distilling water for shipboard uses while in littoral waters or certain other locations. This is evidenced by the fact that while conducting Atomic radiation testing at Bikini Atoll in 1946 they were warned not to utilize any seawater aboard ships in the area, for fear of contamination by the radiation which had contaminated the coastal waters. [THIS WAS IN 1946!!] The ships that were salvaged from operation crossroads were sent to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco for decontamination. A total of 79 ships were sent there. An acid wash was used to decontaminate the evaporators and water purification systems.

If the U.S. Navy had no scientific knowledge of dangers of contamination, why, then, were they worried about distilling seawater at Bikini Atoll?


#2 The U.S. Army Technical Manual, TM 5-813-8, was issued in September, 1986. Chapter 5-1, paragraph C addresses the fact that dissolved organic materials will carry across a distillation/condensation process with the water. Pesticides and industrial organic chemicals may be difficult to remove by distillation/condensation.

WHERE DID THEY GET THIS SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE? This is the Army, who should know less about water desalination than the Navy.


#3 The Manual of Naval Preventive Medicine, NAVMED P-5010-6, [Rev 1990 ], Chapter 6 Water Supply Afloat sec 6-3, states that water in harbors or off-shore from habitations, when operating in fleet strength, MUST be considered POLLUTED and UNFIT for uses other than in fire and flushing systems and must not be used for other purposes. If it is necessary in an emergency situation to produce water from contaminated sources, the Medical Department must insure that increased surveillance of the system is instituted. Operational checks of distillation plants afloat, inspection, and approval of watering points ashore furnish only a part of the PRECAUTIONS NECESSARY to assure a safe water supply.

SOUNDS LIKE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE TO ME !!


#4 The U.S. Navy’s Risk Analysis of Shipboard Drinking Water Chemical Contaminants, [August 18, 2000] by Lieutenant Michael D. Cassady, Medical Service Corps, United States Navy, states,
“An important aspect of the drinking water produced onboard ships and submarines is its source. Ships and submarines routinely do not produce water unless they are at least 12 miles from the shoreline. However, the operational environment for ships and submarines is changing and more missions are requiring operations in littoral waters for extended lengths of time. Littoral waters are more likely to be at risk for primary and secondary contaminates."


#5 In an article from the Navy Epidemiology Board Request for Action Paper [EPI-RAP 98-009 ] May 21,1998 titled, Assessing Chemical Content of Potable Water Produced on United States Navy Ships, the question is asked, “Does potable water produced on U.S. Navy ships contain chemicals that have been associated with adverse health effects in experimental animals and humans exposed through working conditions?" Potable water systems onboard U.S. Navy New construction ships may receive a chemical analysis depending on the construction yard, but this is not a requirement. Lack of routine potable water chemical analysis is a concern because shipboard water quality is affected by many environmental factors including GEOGRAPHY and system maintenance.

Based on the above information I would ask the Department of Veterans Affairs to request from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, and the Department Of Defense to provide information on any scientific studies performed by any college, university, or department of government on shipboard distillation that would shed light on this scientific knowledge, and when they were in possession of it. I certainly believe they knew of dangers on co-distillation of dioxin long before the Vietnam War, or they should have.

Thank you,

A SICK SAILOR!

-----------------------------------

Thanks Sailor! These are very salient issues that at first blush raise serious doubts as to the Department of Veterans Affairs credibility, and after further inspection, raise questions not only of the ethics of the DVA, but of the legality of what they have done in reference to Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam. Hopefully, if enough of this is presented to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, they'll get the point and descend on the DVA, Anthony Principi, and James Nicholson with the jawbone of an ass.

That is long overdue.

The DVA, in issuing a policy change in 2002 that denied benefits to Blue Water Sailors, exceeded their authority by attempting to change the Agent Orange Act that Congress passed in 1991, without any changes by Congress. As their own court scolded them in the Haas case, the DVA is not authorized to make or change the law, only Congress and the Courts have that authority.

When Haas is ultimately upheld, all Haas claims should, therefore, extend back to the date of first claim, regardless of whether a denial was appealed or not. Any Blue Water NAvy Veterans who were cut off from benefits in 2002 should have those claims restored retroactive to their cutoff date, medical claims reimbursed, and interest paid on the benefits illegally withheld by the DVA. Nicholson and Principi should be charged and tried for malfeasance in office, criminal malicious negligence, and conspiracy to deny the civil rights of an entire class of Veterans to sue the chemical companies in civil court. For what those two men have done to their fellow Veterans, they should rot in prison for the rest of their lives and rot in Hell for all eternity.

That would be a just and fitting conclusion to this sad and sordid affair.

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 © 2005-2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.