Sunday, August 31, 2008

Field Day - August '08

A SPECIAL NOTE:

Please offer your prayers for those now in harms way as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the US Gulf Coast. We have a great many people in the area so pray that they get out of the way and remain safe.

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Periodically we tend to houskeeping duties and call it Field Day.

Contacting Senators and Representatives
Dear Readers, you have outdone yourselves with the campaign to contact your Representatives and Senators for committments to support HR 6562. We have 20 members of the House and 17 Senators at this point in time. That is outstanding! Bravo Zulu!

Now we ask a couple of things more of you.

When contacting members of the House, after they agree to co-sponsor and/or vote for HR 6562 in an effort to get it passed this term, follow up with a request that they contact your Senators on your behalf and get their support as well.

Remember, you are getting committments to support passage of HR 6562 this session.

Also, we ask that you contact us by email, using the Email Me link near the top of the left sidebar to let us know which members of Congress committed to you. We need to keep an accurate count, and we need to put those names up in public here to keep them steady and prevent wavering. So, please contact me again with who you have received a committment from. Thanks!
Making comments
Recently, the comments section has become a forum of its own. We really do not mind a Q&A response, although sometimes they do get a bit long. We also do not mind straight comments. Now, we have written a sort of policy on the left side bar that expresses our current views on comments. It is time to put away the attacks on other Veterans. We are all in this together, regardless of how it seems sometimes. Nothing pleases the DVA more than seeing discord among those who make an effort to depose their dictatorial rule and gain legitimate benefits for Veterans. Let us all set about rowing in the same direction. If I see a post that I feel unnecessarily offends another Veteran or group of Veterans, I will contact the commenter if I am able and ask them to withdraw or modify the content of their comment. I cannot change the content of a comment. If you post anonymously, then I cannot contact you. My only recourse then is to make a decision whether to publish your comment or not. In most cases I will publish it, and then take you to task for your unwanted comment section. I detest doing this, because I fervently believe in free speech, but that is my only avenue to try to keep things moving in a positive direction.

If you post a comment and it does not show up within 24 hours, please contact me by the "Email Me" link near the top of the left sidebar. I suggest that any commenter compose his comment as a text document in Notepad or something similar and save it until it appears. All comments must be approved my me. I do other things besides this blog, like four other blogs, and a political campaign I am working for, as well as personal things like doctoring and the like. If you email me, I will get you a response as soon as I am able. Please have patience, though. I have several medical procedures coming up in the next few months, any of which could be either very simple, or degrade into something requiring hospitalization. That may cause a "blackout" on here. So be patient. I also intend to take every opportunity I can to walk the Congressional Office building's hallways knocking on doors to keep HR 6562 moving. If I am doing that, I won't be doing this at the same time. I can't afford the gadgetry to do that!

Politics
"Political opinions", someone once said, "are like a certain excretory portion of the anatomy, everybody has one." While we are very much involved personally at home here with a Presidential campaign, and we are involved with politicians in this fight, we see this fight for benefits as being apolitical. Therefore, we will not be endorsing or advocating one candidate over another unless and until it becomes clear that one will support our efforts and the other will not. And for that reason, and that reasson alone, might an endorsement appear, and political ads be temporarily posted on the sidebars. Should neither candidate support us, we will make that quite clear publicly as well. Count on that.

Quotation
The historian in us has been stymied by a dilemma. Someone sent an email to us with a quotation attributed to George Washington. Here is the quotation:

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceived veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." -- President George Washington
We have been unable to verify that this is indeed from our first president. We have the works of George Washington in our library, and have been browsing through it several times over looking for it. Supposedly, according to Senator Patty Murray, it was said by Washington in 1789. We have been through that section of his complete works several times over, and have not been able to find the source of the quote. We have searched online and can find only the quotation being used by other people, such as Senator Murray.

We know some of you are inded great history buffs, so we open the question up to you, can you find the source of this quote supposedly made by George Washington? If so, please email us using the "Email Me", link near the top of the left sidebar.

Thank you Readers!
We made our first post on here three years and almost three months ago. Since then our readership has grown despite the fact that as a blog, we are of limited scope. We simply do not appeal to Joe Sixpack, or his kids. We should, but we do not. But to the hundreds of loyal readers who come here every day for news, and hope, we thank you. Your stalwart work when we asked you to help is remarkable in the effectiveness of it, including such things as the Medal Returns, and the letter and fax writing campaigns, and your current effort to garner support in Congress for HR 6562. You are an amazingly effective group of people. I believe in your power. And your loyalty here is a strong statement of that power. And for that loyalty, and that effort I, for one, am most grateful. It is my belief that I owe you nothing less in return than what you give here every day. You are my inspiration. I will forever be indebted to you all for that.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Making the case and the effort

We received a comment on the previous post that asked some very good questions. Here is the question:

"...where do we get our info that HR 6562 in its original form is dead?? All I've seen is a letter from people at BWN requesting it...do you have something from Filner, not a phone call to some aide, etc??? An actual statement from Mr Filner?? I still say the original bill can be modified to cover any military who had contact with AO; this can be done during the debate period."
The short answer to the "actual statement part of the question is this: The only person we are aware of who spoke directly to Chairman Filner recently was Larry Scott, the VA Watchdog. The last we heard from Larry he was chasing down a clarification on exactly what Chairman Filner was talking about when he said the bill would not pass this session, and he would resubmit next session with the promised expansion.

The long answer follows.

The sequence of events is this:

Chairman Filner introduced the Bill, HR 6562 on July 22. On July 23rd he had a press conference announcing that bill. He indicated at that press conference his intent to re-establish the Vietnam Service Medal as the eligibility criteria for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.

About a week later he wrote a letter to an Air Force Veteran promising to add the Veterans from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia [TLC Veterans] to the bill.

That, along with the Blue Water Navy [including Coast Guard and Fleet Marines], and the Blue Sky Air Force, completed the group of Veterans who were supposed to be included in the original Agent Orange Act of 1991, that the DVA had stripped of eligibility, requiring Veterans to prove either boots on the ground or direct exposure.

In his original press release, Chairman Filner indicated that he wanted to restore benefits as the original AO Act of 1991 was interpreted, and that meant the restoration of the Vietnam Service Medal as qualifying criteria for presumptive eligibility for exposure to dioxins. He was quite clear about this.

Then, about 10 days ago, a group of Veterans and advocates sent an expansion package to Chairman Filner asking him to not only cover what is mentioned above, but also to cover Veterans from Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, Taiwan, Johnston Island, Panama, and many other places where Agent Orange and other dioxin containing herbicides were used.

When Larry Scott reported a day or two later that he had called Chairman Filner and urged him to get the bill passed, he indicated that the bill would not pass this year, but would be resubmitted next session.

We believe that Chairman Filner was referring to the expanded version of the bill.

We think that to be the case, and that it may unnecessisarily delay the benefits to Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans because while they were to be included in the original AO Act of 1991, and indeed, Navy and Air Force Veterans did collect benefits for a while before the DVA cut them off, and to my knowledge, TLC Veterans never received benefits because the DVA arbitraily wrote their policy to require "boots on the ground", they ARE known to Congress, and the statistics are already in the record of the AO Act of 1991.

We believe then, that HR 6562, while not physically altered from its introduction in July, was altered in the verbal and written agreements that Filner made to the groups asking for inclusion.

There are three important premises to understand here:

1. We do not wish to leave anyone behind, never did, never said so, never indicated it was an option. We don't believe our efforts to get this bill through would do that.

2. The inclusion of the expansion pack will require many hours of hearings in both houses of Congress, working out the details based on the evidence submitted, and what records will likely be subpoenaed from the Department of Defense, to augment those documents already released, thus delaying passage of the resubmitted bill [that won't even be introduced until early next year], for at least a full session, if not longer. That puts eventual benefits as becoming a reality no sooner than mid 2010, or later. That is if the bill passes at all. When Chairman Filner said there was a lot of support for the bill, he was referring to what he originally introduced, not the added expansion package.

3. Chairman Filner would not have submitted the bill if he did not think it stood a chance of getting through this year. We think it still does, as Congress had little time to act on it after its introduction since they went on recess in early August. Thus we believe the bill is still passable this term, IF IT IS RESTRICTED TO BLUE SKY AIR FORCE, BLUE WATER NAVY, AND TLC VETERANS. Since Chairman Filner agreed to resubmit the expanded bill next year, we think it makes sense to still try to get the bill, as introduced, through this session yet. That gets benefits to those mentioned above RESTORED, and makes for an easier passage for the new bill introduced by Chairman Filner that deals with the expansion package.

Less is more in both cases.

In other words, why make Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans wait at least another full year to get their benefits when there is a slim chance they can get them sooner. Chairman Filner already committed to adding the expansion package but said that would delay the bill until next session.
It is a very convoluted situation but one that begs the logic to keep those two sets of groups separate for many reasons, chiefly that the support in Congress already exists for them, but has yet to be manifest for the groups added in the expansion pack.

No one should have to wait...this is an abomination created by the politics of the past two administrations going all the way back to the Clinton Administration and continued by the Bush Administration. They are the ones guilty of leaving Veterans behind.

In the end, it comes down to one question: Why make a large segment of Veterans wait if there is even the smallest chance of getting their benefits sooner than another group? That is not leaving someone behind, it is simply kicking the door in a little sooner, and establishing both a precedent and the intent of Congress. It will be easier to do with the smaller group, and of course, will be a faster track through Congress.

We are, and have been from the start, a Blue Water Navy site. We have expanded our efforts to include the Blue Sky Air Force Veterans and TLC Veterans as our knowledge of the issues grew. We have always believed that their issues were different and separate from those listed in the expansion pack simply by the unique nature of the fact that 19-21 million gallons of dioxin based herbicides were sprayed on the Republic of Vietnam, and to a lesser extent on neighboring Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia; and the fact that the original intent of Congress in the Agent Orange Act of 1991, despite what the [expletive deleted]holes at the DVA say, was to include anyone who served in the Vietnam Theater of War. The proof that the DVA knew that lies in the fact that they did indeed use the Vietnam Service Medal as the criteria for establishing presumptive exposure to Agent Orange for more than a few years as part of the policy that they wrote when interpreting the parts of Title 38, United States Code, that were enacted as the Agent Orange Act of 1991.

So it may come across as in our self-interest to see this bill pass sooner rather than later. That is true. However, what is also true is that we have an opportunity, no matter how slim, to have that happen, and we cannot allow that to pass without making a full scale attempt to make it happen. We do not begrudge any Veteran the right to benefits, of any kind, not just Agent Orange benefits. We will work as hard to get that bill passed next year, whether it contains benefits for us or not. We have always been thus committed.

Finally, we believe we owe something to our fellow Blue Water Navy shipmates and other Veterans of the Vietnam War who go without benefits because of a miscarriage of justice on the part of the DVA. We owe something to the hundreds of loyal readers who come here daily looking for news, for any kind of word about the possibility of a benefit breakthrough for them, who actually come here looking for encouragement and hope. Many of them, most of them, have extremely heartrending stories to tell. Most are financially and physically handicapped, many have had their wives forced to quit work to care for them, sinking deeper into financial ruin, being forced to sell their home, living in a car, and the like. Many of them staring imminent death in the eye from any number of diseases brought on by the exposure during wartime service in the Vietnam Theater of War. How can I be true to them if I cannot make every effort to get those benefits to them the soonest way possible? How would I be able to sleep at night knowing I had a chance to get their benefits for them in a matter of months, rather than years, and I passed it up because "everybody says the bill is dead this term"? How many more victims must the DVA cause to die without benefits because of an arbitrary, illogical, illegal, and capricious interpretation of Congressional intent, when we have in our power to stop the madness for a large group of Veterans that much sooner, rather than later?

In my mind, there is no choice at all. We must see that this bill gets enacted this term.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Operation Rescue HR 6562

We think HR 6562, as Congressman Filner originally intended it, is worthy of a rescue attempt.

We asked for the support of other Veterans groups yesterday, and were rebuffed. So we are in this alone. The reality is that this effort is likely to fail. But unless and until that becomes crystal clear and the clock has run out, we will continue to press for the passage of HR 6562 this session in the form based on the way Chairman Filner introduced it, plus the inclusion of the Veterans of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. We are committed to giving the effort required to get the bill passed. We will not waste the marvelous effort you have made so far in contacting your Representatives and Senators while they are on recess. We will not waste an opportunity to take a large segment of the Veterans exposed to Agent Orange out of the category of "without benefits."

To that end we think the first step is to provide some input into the process. So rather than do a letter writing campaign, we would suggest a fax and email campaign. We need to convince Chairman Filner and Congressman Hall to reset the bill. We have a bill on its way to Chairman Filner's office for his consideration. It contains the elements Chairman Filner had in his initial version of the bill. It includes the TLC Veterans Congressman Filner added to the mix in late July. That will be all of the Veterans who were originally intended to be covered by the Agent Orange Act of 1991, who were stripped of their benefits by various illegally done policy changes made by the DVA. Retroactive benefits are covered in the bill, including coverage for widows and other survivors of Veterans covered under the bill who died while the claim was being processed.

You can help by going to Congressman Filner's House Veterans Affairs Committee website and getting contact info and faxing or emailing him urging him to back HR 6562 as originally intended.

http://veterans.house.gov/contact.shtml

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
335 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

or fax your letter to: (202) 225-2034

or call: (202) 225-9756

You can also contact Mr. Filner at the following locations:

333 F Street, Suite A 1101 Airport Road, Suite D
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Imperial, CA 92251

Phone: (619) 422-5963 Phone: (760) 355-8800
Fax: (619) 422-7290
Fax: (760) 355-8802

Washington, DC Office:

2428 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-8045
Fax: (202) 225-9073

Recommendation: If you live near DC, visit their offices. They are right off the metro at the capitol complex. If not, don't bother to write as it takes at least a month to go through all the Homeland Security stuff. Fax or call. Urge the Chairman to get HR 6562 passed this term and then float a new bill to cover everyone else. That way the original people covered will not be forced to wait while all the new stuff gets filtered through committees in both houses, as the new bill will.

Also, contact Congressman John Hall of NY. He chairs the Sub Committee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. That is where HR 6562 currently sits. We need to enlist his help in convincing Filner to change his mind about HR 6562, and get it through this year.

http://veterans.house.gov/disability/

You can email him using this site:
http://johnhall.house.gov/emailjohn.asp

We have 14 Senators ready to sponsor a concurrent bill in the Senate to save time. Let both these gentlemen know this.

The bill can still go through. Congress doesn't start working until after the Republican Convention, so look for them in Mid September to return, but their staffs ARE working and if they get enough traffic they will get their bosses to go to bat for this!

If you hear that other Veterans have added a bunch to the bill, simply say, "They don't speak for all Veterans. We think we can get this through. Will you help?"

Good luck and God Bless you for your forebearance, understanding and courage to go the extra mile for this bill.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Important Update on NHL Claims!

We received this message on a comment to an older post and thought it of sufficient importance to bring it to your attention. The information comes from Terry Fithian over at the BWN Forum.

Here is what Terry has so kindly shared with us for publication:

The following is very important and should be brought to everyones attention on the board.

The result of taking my case to the U.S. Court of Appeals is as follows and I will quote straight from the legal papers submitted to the court.

"According to personnel with the Compensation and Pension service, a statement will be made for the field offices on the next Veterans Service Center Managers conference call explaining that any claim for NHL from a Vietnam Veteran should be developed and evaluated under 38CFR 3.313 and Should not fall under the HAAS case stay."

What this means is that any Veteran with a claim for NHL currently should go to their RO and have their case pulled and have them start to evaluate it.

This order is dated July 23, 2008 and signed by Brian P Tierney Office of the General Counsel. Please make sure that every sees this so that they can start the process rolling.

Thanks, Terry. This will be a great help to our readers who are suffering from NHL.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Some Logic

While some of the leadership among Veterans groups are busy with turf wars andd playing "shoot the messenger," and "we're not going to be left behind," they are failing to see the basic simple logic in their options.

HR 6562 as a Blue Water Navy, Fleet Marines, Coast Guard, Blue Sky Air Force, and Thailand, Laos, Cambodia [TLC] bill is still sitting in Chairman Hall's subcommittee.

We believe that bill can still get through Congress this year. Maybe not, but there is a shot. We've gotten more commitments to co-sponsor from both the House and the Senate.

So, what have all the other groups got to lose, since Filner stated he would float a new omnibus type bill at the start of the new session? What is there to lose either way? If the Blue Water version of the bill goes through, it is a winner for those Veterans [who will loyally return to the fight when Filner's new bill is introduced next term], and Filner can still introduce the expanded coverage bill in the next session as planned, but BWN, BSAF, FMF, USCG, and TLC Veterans will already be on their way to benefits, providing a clear path of precedence and Congressional intent to the DVA. If the Blue Water Navy effort fails, it would go into that same package, as currently planned.

So, I ask again, what has anyone got to lose?

It is time to put away your animosities and get behind the one piece of legislation that has a shot at getting through this term and restoring benefits that the VA stole from us right out of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 .

So you all need to make a decision, are you going to be part of the solution, or are you going to be part of the problem. Can you put aside your jealousies and animosity and work for a common goal, or will you be part of an effort that denies a large segment of Veterans an opportunity to get their benefits restored?

After all, what have you got to lose? More importantly, what can you gain from it.

Just a little logic and common sense.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How HR 6562 got hijacked

This is really very simple folks. Below is the text of a fax sent to Congressman Filner by a very interesting group. Blue Water Navy, Fleet Marines, Coast Guard, Blue Sky Air Force, and Thailand-Laos-Cambodia Veterans should take a good look at the signatures under the document. This document persuaded Filner to drop HR 6562, which you have been working very hard to get passed in this term, and stood a good chance of doing, in favor of a much more complicated bill that will be introduced sometime next year, and face many committee hearings, and a very long process, if it gets passed at all.

HR 6562 was designed to right a wrong by the VA: the halt of benefits that were given to the Veterans who served in the above mentioned areas. Filner wanted to restore that eligibility for all those Veterans. Now they must wait 1-2 years, perhaps longer, instead of seeing their claims processed next year.

Here is the complete text of what this group, who operated in secret, convinced Filner to include. [We have edited it lightly to remove some extraneous code]. Note the signers and the section in bold.

Honorable Bob Filner this date of August 20, 2008

A Joint Request for Modification to H.R. 6562, "The Agent Orange Equity Act"

in Coordination with Blue Water Navy (BWN/VVA) and

Herbicide Exposure Legislative Proposal & Promotion Project (HELPPP)

Request for Inclusion #1: We respectfully request that H.R. 6562 be modified to add in the appropriate sections, subsections, and paragraphs the following language to § 1116:

"including the inland waterways, ports, and harbors of the Republic, the waters offshore of the Republic, and the airspace above the Republic"

The inclusion of "ports and harbors" as written above establishes the fact that these areas are to be considered part of the inland waterway system, and not as part of the "waters offshore." - John Rossie, Executive Director, BWNVVA

Request for Inclusion #2. We respectfully request that H.R. 6562 be modified to add in the appropriate sections, subsections, and paragraphs the following language to § 1116:

"including the inland waterways, ports, and harbors of the Republic, the waters offshore of the Republic, and the airspace above the Republic, and in neighboring countries including Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and other locations including those in paragraphs (A), (B), and (C) or received the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Campaign Medal for Vietnam, or served in combat or direct support of combat operations (alternative phrase "served in a direct combat support role"); during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975; and:
(A) Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa, Panama,
(B) Johnston Island during the period between April 1972 and September 1977,
(C) Locations listed in "The History of the US Department of Defense Programs for the Testing, Evaluation, and Storage of Tactical Herbicides", December 2006, by Alvin Young for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense and updated as defined above.
i. In adjudication of claims listed in (A) (B) and (C) above where records are presumed lost, destroyed, or unavailable, or non-existent, the Secretary's obligation to explain his decisions and to consider the benefit of doubt rule is heightened, and
ii. The Secretary must presume the veteran was exposed during such service to herbicide agents and any other chemical compound in an herbicide agent, unless there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service.

Request for Inclusion #3. We respectfully request that H.R. 6562 be modified to add the appropriate sections, subsections, and paragraphs language taken directly from H.R. 5892, Section 111 et al. to § 1116 except as modified:

SEC. 111. TREATMENT OF CLAIMS UPON DEATH OF CLAIMANT.

(a) Treatment of Beneficiary of Veteran's Accrued Benefits as Claimant for Purposes of Incomplete Claims Upon Death of Veteran - Chapter 51 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 5121 the following new section:

`Sec. 5121A. Substitution in case of death of claimant'

`(a) Substitution- If a veteran who is a claimant dies while a claim for any benefit under a law administered by the Secretary, or an appeal of a decision with respect to such a claim, is pending and awaiting adjudication, the person who would receive any accrued benefits due to the veteran under section 5121(a)(2) of this title shall be treated as the claimant for the purposes of processing the claim to completion, except that such person may only submit new evidence in support of the claim during the one-year period beginning on the date of the death of the veteran.รข€™ (We ask that a review of Nehmer take place to insure those requirements are met; i.e. that there be no contradiction to the Court rulings and decisions of that case as it applies to section 5121 of title 38 including 38 CFR 3.100.)

`(b) Limitation- Only one person may be treated as the claimant under subsection (a).'

`(c) Designation of Third Party- If the person who would be eligible to be treated as the claimant under subsection (a) certifies to the Secretary that the person does not want to be treated as the claimant for such purposes, such person may designate the person who would receive the benefits under section 5121(a)(2) upon the death of the person who would otherwise be treated as the claimant under subsection (a) to be treated as the claimant for the purposes of processing the claim to completion.'.

"(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 5121 the following new item:"

`5121A. Death of claimant."

"(c) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to the claim of any veteran who dies on or after the date of the effective date of this Act."

Requests #2 and #3 are submitted as a consensus opinion of BWN/VVA and HELPPP to clearly specify those locations where veterans were exposed to herbicides (as defined by the law) and to ensure that widows of veterans who have fallen victim to presumed diseases are provided equitable treatment and the same rights afforded their deceased spouses. It is critical to this legislation. - Blue Water Navy/Vietnam Veterans of America and the Herbicide Exposure Legislative Proposal & Promotion Project.

Request for Inclusion #4. We respectfully request that H.R. 6562 be modified to strike from the appropriate legal references in the legislation or the authorization for the concession of exposure to herbicides in areas near the DMZ in Korea and adding:

strike "April 1968, and ending July 1969" and replace with "September 1, 1967, and ending August 31, 1971." for the DMZ in Korea.

The inclusion of "September 1, 1967 and ending on August 31, 1971" as written above establishes the time frames Congress considered for inclusion in H.R. 972- The Civilian Agent Orange Act of 2007; and is already part of M21-1MR, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section C, paragraph 10 l. - Charles Wayne Kelley, SP5, 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery
Request for Inclusion #5. We respectfully request that the following language be inserted into appropriate legislation as it applies to the activities of federal departments in compliance with the VCAA.

Sec. 5106. Furnishing of information by other agencies
The head of any Federal department or agency shall provide such information to the Secretary and other responsible organizations (JSRRC) as becomes available for any reason or that the Secretary may request for purposes of determining eligibility for or amount of benefits, or verifying other information with respect thereto.

The reference to the VCAA is incorporated to strengthen the access to, release of, and dissemination to appropriate agencies and organizations specifically created to assist veterans in obtaining information pertinent to successfully validating their claim. - Kurt Priessman, "Project CHECO: Base Defense in Thailand", HELPPP.

Submitted by the Undersigned:

Name Position/Organization Residence
Mr. John R. Rossie Executive Director, BWN/VVA Littleton, CO

Mr. Walter Ward Secretary, BWN/VVA Washington, DC

Mr. Jeff Comerchero Council Member, City of Temecula California Temecula, CA
Thailand Veteran

Mr. John C. C. Vincent Owner, PTSD Support Group (8336 US Members) Canada

Mr. Michael A. Moynihan President, Agent Orange Diabetic Victims (AODV) Kimball, MI

Mr. Gary J. Chenett National Director, Order of the Silver Rose Grand Blant, MI

Mr. Kurt Priessman MSgt, USAF (Ret), 70% Disabled AO Victim Vernon, TX
Thailand & Okinawa (˜71-˜76), Korea (˜77-˜81) Veteran
Vietnam Dog Handler's Association (VDHA)
Thailand Vietnam Vets for Equal Treatment (TVVET)
Owner, HELPPP, The Bottom Line

Mrs. Sheila Snyder Home of the Agent Orange "Quilt of Tears" Davenport, FL
President, AO Victims & Widows Support Network, Inc

Mrs. Marilyn Oliver Director, Order of the Silver Rose Toledo, OH
Thailand Vietnam Vets for Equal Treatment (TVVET)
Co-owner, HELPPP

Mr. Jerrel Cook Project 112/SHAD Veteran and Host SVR Radio Joplin, MO

Mrs. Bonnie L. Richards Project 112/SHAD Lincoln, NE Director, Order of the Silver Rose

Name Position/Organization Residence
Mr. Dennis Oliver Korat Thailand Veteran ˜66-˜67 Toledo, OH
Life Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars Member, USARSUPTHAI@Yahoogroups.com
Member, KORATRTAFB@Yahoogroups.com

Mr. Henry Snyder Vietnam Veteran 70% Disabled AO Victim Davenport, FL
Home of the Agent Orange "Quilt of Tears"
Vice President, AO Victims & Widows Support Network, Inc.

Mrs. Ruth E. Roberts-Shepherd Wife of a Vietnam Veteran Summerville, SC
Vietnam Veterans of America
Councilperson, Lincolnville, SC Land & Zoning Commission
Special Investigator (Ret), Office of Special Investigations, Welfare Fraud

Mr. James M. Cripps Vietnam Veterans of America Nashville, TN
Chairperson, Tennessee Agent Orange Committee
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 953
Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 3
AMVETS, Chapter 1776

Mr. Elves A. King, III Director, Order of the Silver Rose Wichita Falls, TX
Vietnam Veteran
Brown and Blue Water Navy
Veterans of Foreign Wars
American Legion
Disabled American Veterans
Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans
MOPH, Submarine Veterans, Tin Can Sailors

Mr. William F Fiegel Vietnam Veteran Mt. Prospect, IL Life Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars,
Vietnam Veterans of America
Disabled American Veterans
Director, Order Of The Silver Rose
Jr Vice Commander 2007-2008, VFW
Membership Director, NMSOA
Wooden Ships-Iron Men
Member, PGR

Mr. Michael K. Regan CMSgt, USAF (Ret) Bedford, TX
NKP Thailand Veteran (˜72-˜73)
Vietnam Dog Handler's Association (VDHA)

Mrs. Laura Zolman Director, Order of the Silver Rose Mt Vernon, OH
Wife of a Vietnam Veteran

Mr. Bruce Jasinski MSgt USAF (Ret) Milford, KS
Udorn Thailand Veteran (70 - 71)
Life Member, Air Force Association (AFA)

Name Position/Organization Residence
Mr. Steve Burns Vietnam Veteran Thomasville, GA
Owner, VeteransInfo
Owner, PTSDandTBI
Owner, Christian Veterans and Wives
Owner, AO-Awareness-and-Info
Owner, Veteransvent

Mr. Michael Weldon Saigon Vietnam Veteran (1969) Udon Thani, Thailand
Korat (1966) & U-Tapao (1967) Thailand Vet

Mr. Lonnie Flowers TSgt, USAF (Ret) Bossier City, LA
NKP Thailand Veteran (1971, 73-75)
Life Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars
American Legion

Mr. Randall D. Thomas Sr. MSgt USAF (Ret) Louisville, KY NKP Thailand Veteran
American Legion
Member, Hadit.Com

Ms. Debra Nolan 100% Disabled Veteran Syracuse, NY

Mrs. Aletta Drummond Vietnam Veterans Wife Franklin, MO

Mrs. Maura Northup Vietnam Thailand Okinawa Veterans Widow Starke, FL

Mrs. Norma Capps Thailand Veteran Wife Puryear, TN
Mrs. Marianne Anderson Thailand/Vietnam Veterans Widow Washington, DC

Mrs. Linda Bowlin Thailand Veteran Wife Kingsport, TN

Mr. Wayne L. Anderson Camp Friendship (67-68) Thailand Veteran Cosmos, MN
Camp Samae San (69)
USARPTHAI/Thailand Laos Cambodia (TLC)

Mr. Dan Wilson Vietnam Veteran Ballwin, MO (Rat Patrol Man) Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars
Vietnam Veterans of America
American Legion

Mr. David Adkinson U-Tapao Thailand Veteran (71-72) Milton, FL
Eglin AFB, FL
Gulfport NGB, MS

Mr. James Pomeroy U-Tapao Thailand Veteran (71-72) Gladstone, MI
Okinawa Veteran (73-74)
Vietnam Dog Handler's Association (VDHA)


Name Position/Organization Residence
Mr. James Ziats Ubon Thailand Veteran (70-71) Greensboro, NC
Vietnam Dog Handler's Association (VDHA)

Mr. Tom Troxel Ubon Thailand Veteran (69-70) Twin Cities, MN
Vietnam Dog Handler's Association (VDHA)

Mr. Alejandro Tapiro, Jr. Korat Thailand Veteran (67) Honolulu, HI

Mr. James Mahaffey Ubon Thailand Veteran (71-72) Great Falls, MT

Mr. Sam Huff NKP Thailand Veteran (70-71) Roseburg, OR

Mr. Anthony M Lanzetta Korat Thailand Veteran (66-67) Port Charlotte, FL
Disabled American Veterans

Mr. David Galven U-Tapao Thailand Veteran (72-73) Ripon, CA

Mr. Grady Olmstead Udorn Thailand Veteran (70-71) Nashville, TN
AMVETS Chapter 1776

Mr. Jack Chapman Korat Thailand Veteran (70-71) Kermit, WV

Mr. James Scheider Sakon Nakon Thailand Veteran (70-71) Springfield, IL

Mr. James C. King Udorn Thailand Veteran ('70-'71) Golden, CO

Mr. Leonardo Gilardi lgelati@comcast.net Gloucester, MA

Mr. Steven Fetty sgfetty@aol.com Falls of Rough, KY
Mr. Rex Chapman BWN Orlando, FL

Mr. Phil Hunt Thailand Veteran

Mr. Paul Rops Udorn Thailand Veteran (67-68)

Mr. Michael Domanowski Thailand Veteran
Perry pnjlyn1@yahoo.com Munger, MI

Steve kentbird_47@yahoo.com KS

John Foster john707foster@yahoo.com

James Wallace strawberygrouper@yahoo.com

Sadly, more than a few Veterans from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia who were to be included in HR 6562 this year, have postponed, if not killed their own benefits. As you can see, this is very complicated stuff. Most of it will be unknown to Congress. These people as a group insist that the Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, Fleet Marines, Coast Guard, and TLC Veterans not receive their benefit restoration next year, but wait until everyone gets their benefits, if it can get through Congress. I suspect there is language in the above that would prevent it from ever passing. Some of the stuff in the above is in other legislation that has already passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. What a waste.

We trust that this will now put to rest the lies, half-truths, misstatements, denials, and secrecy occuring on another site. The Blue Water Navy folks are a great bunch of people and they certainly did not deserve this from their leadership. We do not believe that their leadership legitimately spoke for them, either, when committing this hijacking.

Nevertheless, at this point the Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, Fleet Marines, Coast Guard and Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans dreams of benefits next year are dead.

VNVets
"A Veteran's worst enemy is another Veteran" - Anonymous
”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Announcing a new organization: VASVW

We have begun a new organization, The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW]. We would like to introduce you to it now.

Our premise is this:

The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War is founded on the principle of furthering the benefits for Veteran Sailors of the Vietnam War, their families, and survivors, and other Veterans of the Vietnam War, and the Vietnam Era, who have been affected by exposure to Dioxins from herbicides used in, or transported to Southeast Asia during that war. We also welcome those who agree with and support our causes and efforts.

We espouse the concept that no one shall be left behind. We equally espouse the concept of a broad based, grass roots, common-sense effort to support any legislation that will further that cause. And we espouse the concept of mutual support, and comradeship among our member shipmates.

We believe in fairness, openness, and the inclusion of all in decision-making. Each member shall have full say, and each member shall have available full knowledge of the issues at hand.

We believe in open membership, and only those who have no demonstrated interest [spammers, etc.], or who work at cross purposes to our stated goals and objectives will be blocked.

We do not believe in requiring a membership fee for VASVW. As a non-profit organization we anticipate no collection of monies whatsoever.

The temporary board should hold an election of officers and board members when we reach 50 members.

Anyone interested in serving on the temporary board should contact me directly.

With the above information in mind, we would like to invite you to join the VASVW. To start the process, please find the Yahoo Group logo just above the Ship List on the left sidebar, or the VASVW logo in the same area and click on it. Or, you can go to the group itself at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vasvw/ and click on "Join this group."

The members of this group will be here for each other, and for all others covered under our objectives as stated above.

[Personal Note: I have no desire to serve as an officer or a board member. I'll help organize, but I truly want the members to govern the organization. I will vote and voice my opinion like everyone else, and give advice when asked. I am not in this for the credit. I'm in this for the benefits, and the legacy like everyone else.]

Please be clear on this: We are not in competition with anyone. We operate on the concept of a clear set of goals and ideals to which we expect to adhere.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Common Sense

While we applaud the intent of anyone who attempts to get benefits for Veterans exposed to Agent Orange anywhere, we cannot applaud their effect on HR 6562, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008, when it delays the benefits for a large segment of those Veterans. And that is exactly what the hijacking of HR 6562 has done.

In its original form, HR 6562 was a bill of beauty and simplicity. While it required refinement to give it specific and undeniable intent, it was confined to those Veterans who lost their benefits in 1993 [Blue Sky Air Force], in 2002 [Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force], and to those Veterans of the Vietnam War who should have been included under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the Veterans of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia [TLC] who engaged in combat operations against the enemy, or in direct support of those operations. Those Veterans are known to the members of Congress, and to Congress as a body. Except for the TLC Veterans, who should have been included by the DVA in their interpretation of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, that entire group received benefits under that act at one time. The TLC Veterans received the Vietnam Service Medal, which is what the DVA used as criteria to determine eligibility for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.

That version of the bill would require a simple legislative process, minimal hearing time, and has already garnered support in advance from many in Congress. It stood a good chance of passage in the current session, and with a veto-proof margin in the Senate.

Thousands of Blue Water Navy Veterans and their loved ones have spent the past month pounding on the doors of their Representatives and Senators obtaining commitments of support for HR 6562. They were looking forward to the introduction of the bill in the Senate which would have been considered concurrently with the one in the House, thus streamlining the effort and giving it every chance to pass in this session.

Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans were actually seeing the likelihood of receiving benefits under the Agent Orange Act starting in late spring of 2009. There was light at the end of the tunnel.

We have advocated all along asking for the inclusion of those Veterans who served outside the Vietnam Theater of Operations [those Veterans who were not Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force, Blue Sky Air Force, or TLC], but were exposed to herbicide based dioxins. We advocated, however, for their benefits in a separate bill. The reason was simple: while the issue of those exposures in locations other than the Vietnam Theater of Operations is known to most members of Congress, those issues are not known to Congress itself. What this means is that most members of Congress are aware of the issues, but in their official capacity, Congress as a body, which is what passes legislation, lacks the understanding of the scope of those issues, the details of them, and the statistics behind them that would back them up. Passage of a bill authorizing benefits for those Veterans who served outside the Vietnam Theater of Operations will be a long, drawn out process, and one which will face more opposition from Congress than the originally intended HR 6562.

When Chairman Filner apparently announced that he would drop HR 6562 in favor of an all-inclusive bill for all Veterans everywhere, who were exposed to Agent Orange he was admitting that it would be a very long process while Congress sifts through all the new evidence of exposure for those who served outside the Vietnam Theater of Operations. The process would include hearing after hearing, and much debate on the floor of both chambers. Congress could take more than one session to move the legislation to a vote. That puts benefits for everyone currently not eligible for them under Department of Veterans Affairs rules to a window of winter 2009 to some time in 2010. That includes those Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans who could possibly have started to receive their benefits by late spring of 2009.

Adding those who served outside the Vietnam Theater of Operations forces those Veterans who served in the Vietnam Theater of Operations to wait much longer until the bill passes in its new form.

During that period of time, which spans from six months to a year and a half [or longer], many Veterans, who have claims pending will die. Many will be forced to sell their homes because they are too sick to work, and because Social Security Disability is not sufficient to keep them financially afloat, if they can get it. Others will go without medications, or without operations that could prolong their lives, alleviate pain and disability, and improve their quality of life. New widows will be made, and Veterans will suffer and die without a financial legacy to leave behind.

Of course it is in our self-interest to advocate for the quick passage of HR 6562 in its simplified form, restricted to only the Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC Veterans. By making the Agent Orange Act of 1991 applicable to any and all who served in Vietnam, off shore of Vietnam, in the skies over Vietnam, and in Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, who received the Vietnam Service Medal, HR 6562 stands a very good chance of passage this session.

If that comes to pass, many Veterans will be spared the physical and financial heartbreak, obtain the medications and operations needed to save their lives, and improve the quality of those lives, and assure the financial legacy and security to their eventual survivors.

We do not think that is too much to ask. It would NOT be leaving anyone behind, merely preceding them in the receipt of their benefits. And Blue Water Navy Veterans are committed to carrying the fight forward after receipt of their own benefits. They would work just as hard to gain Congressional support for a bill providing relief for those exposed to Agent Orange outside of the Vietnam Theater of Operations.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Urgent: You need to take action NOW!

Well! Where to begin. We will pass on to you that we have been denied access to the Yahoo group where the secret work is proceeding to hijack the HR 6562 bill and turn it into a monster impossible to enact.

We have also been denied access to the Blue Water Navy forum, as our presence there would alert the members to what is going on by their leadership.

Then, tonight, we received a comment for moderation on the Ipso Facto post. Unlike those who shun the light and prefer to hide in the dark, we post those comments freely, for we are not afraid of criticism, nor do we fear the truth.

Here is the text of the comment so you don't have to go looking for it:

"The statements made by Mr. Davis are so far from the truth as to be ridiculous. Nothing is done in secret, and it was his bombastic comments that kept him from having input. He is the only "leader" and I use the term loosely, that wants to take credit for anything.

"Read the act and pray you are Brown Water Navy, the only ones who as written will be helped. No one should care about the legacy of BWN or TLC. They should only care about the legacy of those who have died, and the struggle of their widows."
After we wiped this person's spittle from our glasses we read the comment and found it utterly fascinating. It is, in fact, a perfect admission of everything it tries to deny, and a confession that what we have been saying here is, on fact, the truth.

Let's look at this and analyze it. "Nothing is done in secret." Then why have the members of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association been kept in the dark about the re-write of HR 6562? Why are persons who dissent not permitted to have a say?

We want to "take credit" for something? Certainly not for what you are doing, commenter. We do not care about who gets credit for something. That is a red herring created by the president of the BWNVVA, who has accused us of this before. One thing we have prided ourself about here is that we give credit where credit is due. We acknowledge when ideas are not ours, and we freely admit our mistakes. We always have and always will. We credit authors of quotes, and posts, unless they specifically ask us not to, which is rare. On several occasions we have hidden someone's identity at their request to protect them. Taking credit is not something we do here. It is not important. What is important is getting information out to the Blue Water Navy Veterans as fast as we can. They need to know what is going on, as soon as possible so they can make decisions accordingly.

Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam are a great bunch of people. They deserve better than to be treated as vassels by a leader who is more concerned with credit and self importance than with doing the right thing. They do not deserve to be kept in the dark, and misled.

Now the fascinating stuff is the diatribe contained in the second paragraph. In it, the commenter exposes his true feelings about HR 6562. "Read the act and pray you are Brown Water Navy, the only ones who as written will be helped", he says.

As written so far, the act says:

110TH CONGRESS
2D SESSION H. R. 6562
To amend title 38, United States Code, relating to presumptions of exposure
for veterans who served in the vicinity of Vietnam.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Mr. FILNER introduced the following bill; which was referred to the
Committee on

A BILL
To amend title 38, United States Code, relating to presumptions of exposure for veterans who served in the vicinity of Vietnam.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Agent Orange Equity Act’’.

SEC. 2. CLARIFICATION OF PRESUMPTIONS OF EXPOSURE FOR VETERANS WHO SERVED IN THE VICINITY OF VIETNAM.
Effective on and after September 25, 1985, subsections (a) and (f) of section 1116 of title 38, United States Code, are each amended by inserting after ‘‘Republic of Vietnam’’ each place it appears the following: ‘‘including the inland waterways of such Republic, the waters offshore of such Republic, and the airspace above such Republic’’.
The bill's intent is clearly to change the definition of Service in Vietnam, the current version of which the VA has used against the Blue Water Navy Veterans for years. And the change is to ADD these words to the definition: ‘‘including the inland waterways of such Republic, the waters offshore of such Republic, and the airspace above such Republic’’

So the commenter has such little understanding of the definition of Blue Water and Brown Water that he simply shows what an ignoramus he is. Clearly anyone can see the intent of the bill. In the final version, that part will be written in so precisely that it will leave no room for the DVA it twist it or misconstrue it or do anything except to abide by it.

Then the real kicker: "No one should care about the legacy of BWN or TLC. They should only care about the legacy of those who have died, and the struggle of their widows."

Good readers, this is a disturbed mind at work. We have, from the very start of our Blog on the web, and from before that, been fighting for the restoration of our legacy, and that legacy is the benefits stolen from the Blue Sky Air Force in 1993, and Blue Water Navy Veterans in 2002 by the DVA. It is our legacy that will care for our widows after we are gone.

The commenter would have us sacrifice our benefits, our legacy to leave behind us when we die. He says we are not worthy. "No one should care" about us, the Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam, nor should anyone care about the Veterans of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

And that, dear and loyal readers, is exactly the attitude we have been trying to warn you about over the past few days. That is the attitude of one of the "leaders" who is responsible for hijacking HR 6562, and rewriting it to add measures that will never pass this Congress.

Thus the commenter has fully demonstrated the deception, secrecy and lies that are fueling their effort to change the Agent Orange Equity act of 2008 into something called "The Agent Orange Dioxin Exposure Bill". Go ahead and vist them.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AgentOrange-DioxinExposureBill-HELPP/

See for yourself. Spend time looking at the messages. You won't be able to read "Their Bill", but you will get the gist of it. Don't be fooled by what you read on the front page. Get in and read their posts. And see who it is that is posting.

Then you need to take a stand. You need to renounce this effort if for no other reason than the fact that you have not been asked, you have had no say in it, it has been kept secret from you, and total strangers have taken your bill, that you have fought so hard for and for a very long time, and turned it into something that will have no chance to be enacted. They are stealing your future out from under you.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ipso Facto

We are posting the comments of one of our readers, a fellow Blue Water Navy Veteran of the Vietnam War. Without further ado:

"I, like others, have been on an emotional roller coaster throughout the VA’s Agent Orange proceeding. Enraged that the VA would take away benefits of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans after over 10 years of extending us the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange but euphoric when the Veteran’s Court overturned the VA’s ruling. Dejected when the VA decided to Appeal that decision, but encouraged when I read the NVLSP’s compelling brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals. Depressed when the U.S. Court of Appeals in a split decision bought the VA’s illogical and deceptive arguments, but ecstatic when Chairman Filner introduced H.R. 6562, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008.

"But the ecstasy of H.R. 6562 was short-lived. Within a few days of the Chairman’s introduction of this bill, once again worry began to creep in when I began reading complaints at various veteran’s forums on-line that veterans who served in distant places throughout the world (for example Florida and Guam) were not included and that Congress needed to be pressured to expand the bill to include them. And then, the other day you mentioned to me that you read someone saying things like “our bill, H.R. 6562” and “of course the Blue Water Navy should get their benefits” when talking about adding an expansion to the time when Korean DMZ troops were exposed. Upon hearing this, worry turned into a feeling of hopelessness as I slowly began to realize that each additional area would bring unique sets of circumstances and added layers of complexity and controversy, the weight of which would surely sink H.R. 6562.

"Before I go on, please understand that I do not wish that anyone who was exposed to AO and is suffering from its effects be denied medical and other benefits by the VA, but for years we have been pressing Congress to restore benefits that the VA at first extended but later revoked. H.R. 6562 was meant for precisely this purpose, and for us or anyone to go to Congress now and ask them to change this bill so as to extend coverage outside of the Vietnam area of operations, areas that were never intended by Congress to be included in the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (the 1991 Act), would, in effect, be moving the goalposts now that we are finally in scoring position. In fact, it would be more than moving, it would be relocating them to another stadium.

"As I read H.R. 6562 and understood Chairman Filner when he introduced it, he heard our desperate plea and is proposing a clarification of the intentions of the 1991 Act so as to reaffirm that Congress meant for the presumption of exposure to be extended to veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam and the vicinity of Vietnam. This is what we asked for. Moreover, there are no reasonable interpretations of the 1991 Act that would include anyone exposed to AO outside of the Vietnam area of operations such as Guam, Florida, Korea, to name a few. This is not to say that exposure did not occur. What I am saying is that to include such far away countries is anything but a "clarification" and would, in fact, represent a total rewrite of the 1991 Act. It seems to me, as difficult a time as we have had getting the clarification introduced in Congress, to now in the final days of the 110th Congress to demand a total overhaul of the 1991 Act would be irrational and would surely doom passage of this bill.

"I am not all that knowledgeable of AO exposure outside of Vietnam or the laws or regulations regarding such , but it seems to me that there are soldiers who were exposed in Korea, for example, who are getting benefits from the VA due to exposure to AO, but those benefits are not extended pursuant to the 1991 Act. Rather, as I understand it, they are covered under a different law, the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003. So just as these Korean veterans have AO coverage that is associated with a statute other than the 1991 Act, so should those in Florida, Guam, and other places outside of the vicinity of Vietnam who may have been exposed to AO. And if Korean veterans’ coverage is to be expanded, it seems to me that it should be done by amending the Veterans Benefit Act. But, in any event, the intricacies, complexities and controversies that each additional distant country would add to H.R.6562 would be impossible to resolve in the short time that is left in the 110th Congress.

"Once again, I do not want to leave anyone behind. I just think that it would be more appropriate to cover non-Vietnam veterans in legislation separate from H.R. 6562. Or after the successful enactment of H.R. 6562 into law, then begin an effort to totally rewrite the Agent Orange Act if the facts warrant it. But to try such a major expansion of coverage now would ruin any chance of passage of H.R. 6562 this year and, perhaps, forever - a result that would benefit no one, anywhere."

--A Blue Water Vietnam Veteran

Wow! I'd like to thank the reader who sent this to me for publication for such a well reasoned statement of an issue that soon will come to a head. There are forces at work on HR 6562 that purport to be making enormous changes to the bill, adding in verbiage that will include Veterans from many places outside the Vietnam War theater, demanding benefits for them. While Filner's bill is ripe for modification, it actually is intended simply to restore the Vietnam Service Medal as the criteria for automatic presumption of exposure to Agent Orange [herbicides] in Veterans who served in Vietnam, in off shore waters, in the skies above Vietnam, and in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

The writer is correct. Such additions as are being plotted by proponents of benefits for those who served outside the Vietnam Theater of operations should, rightly, be written as an amendment to the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003, not HR 6562. In actual fact, there is no codified authority for the payment of benefits to the Veterans of service on the Korean DMZ. It is done by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the report from the Department of Defense of the use of herbicides on the South Korean side of the DMZ in 1968 and 1969.

What is codified is done in the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003. Here are the applicable sections of what Congress enacted as changes to Title 38 United States Code, Part 2:

SEC. 102. BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN WITH SPINA BIFIDA OF VETERANS OF CERTAIN SERVICE IN KOREA.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 18 is amended--

      (1) by redesignating subchapter III, and sections 1821, 1822, 1823, and 1824, as subchapter IV, and sections 1831, 1832, 1833, and 1834, respectively; and

      (2) by inserting after subchapter II the following new subchapter III:

`SUBCHAPTER III--CHILDREN OF CERTAIN KOREA SERVICE VETERANS BORN WITH SPINA BIFIDA
`Sec. 1821. Benefits for children of certain Korea service veterans born with spina bifida

    `(a) BENEFITS AUTHORIZED- The Secretary may provide to any child of a veteran of covered service in Korea who is suffering from spina bifida the health care, vocational training and rehabilitation, and monetary allowance required to be paid to a child of a Vietnam veteran who is suffering from spina bifida under subchapter I of this chapter as if such child of a veteran of covered service in Korea were a child of a Vietnam veteran who is suffering from spina bifida under such subchapter.

    `(b) SPINA BIFIDA CONDITIONS COVERED- This section applies with respect to all forms and manifestations of spina bifida, except spina bifida occulta.

    `(c) VETERAN OF COVERED SERVICE IN KOREA- For purposes of this section, a veteran of covered service in Korea is any individual, without regard to the characterization of that individual's service, who--

      `(1) served in the active military, naval, or air service in or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), as determined by the Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, during the period beginning on September 1, 1967, and ending on August 31, 1971; and

      `(2) is determined by the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to have been exposed to a herbicide agent during such service in or near the Korean demilitarized zone.

    `(d) HERBICIDE AGENT- For purposes of this section, the term `herbicide agent' means a chemical in a herbicide used in support of United States and allied military operations in or near the Korean demilitarized zone, as determined by the Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, during the period beginning on September 1, 1967, and ending on August 31, 1971.'.

    (b) CHILD DEFINED- Section 1831, as redesignated by subsection (a) of this section, is amended by striking paragraph (1) and inserting the following new paragraph (1):

      `(1) The term `child' means the following:

        `(A) For purposes of subchapters I and II of this chapter, an individual, regardless of age or marital status, who--

          `(i) is the natural child of a Vietnam veteran; and

          `(ii) was conceived after the date on which that veteran first entered the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era.

        `(B) For purposes of subchapter III of this chapter, an individual, regardless of age or marital status, who--

          `(i) is the natural child of a veteran of covered service in Korea (as determined for purposes of section 1821 of this title); and

          `(ii) was conceived after the date on which that veteran first entered service described in subsection (c) of that section.'.

    (c) NONDUPLICATION OF BENEFITS- Subsection (a) of section 1834, as redesignated by subsection (a) of this section, is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `In the case of a child eligible for benefits under subchapter I or II of this chapter who is also eligible for benefits under subchapter III of this chapter, a monetary allowance shall be paid under the subchapter of this chapter elected by the child.'.

    (d) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS- (1) Section 1811(1)(A) is amended by striking `section 1821(1)' and inserting `section 1831(1)'.

    (2) The heading for chapter 18 is amended to read as follows:

`CHAPTER 18--BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN OF VIETNAM VETERANS AND CERTAIN OTHER VETERANS'.

    (e) CLERICAL AMENDMENTS- (1) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 18 is amended by striking the items relating to subchapter III and sections 1821, 1822, 1823, and 1824 and inserting the following new items:

`SUBCHAPTER III--CHILDREN OF CERTAIN KOREA SERVICE VETERANS BORN WITH SPINA BIFIDA

      `1821. Benefits for children of certain Korea service veterans born with spina bifida.

`SUBCHAPTER IV--GENERAL PROVISIONS

      `1831. Definitions.

      `1832. Applicability of certain administrative provisions.

      `1833. Treatment of receipt of monetary allowance and other benefits.

      `1834. Nonduplication of benefits.'.

    (2) The table of chapters at the beginning of title 38, United States Code, and at the beginning of part II, are each amended by striking the item relating to chapter 18 and inserting the following new item:

1802'.

As you can see, the above amendments to Title 38 United States Code, Part 2, Chapter 18 contains the section that says:

    `(c) VETERAN OF COVERED SERVICE IN KOREA- For purposes of this section, a veteran of covered service in Korea is any individual, without regard to the characterization of that individual's service, who--

      `(1) served in the active military, naval, or air service in or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), as determined by the Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, during the period beginning on September 1, 1967, and ending on August 31, 1971; and

      `(2) is determined by the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to have been exposed to a herbicide agent during such service in or near the Korean demilitarized zone.

Herein is the definition of coverage for Veterans who served in Korea. It is codified in Chapter 18.

The Agent Orange Act section applicable to Vietnam is in Chapter 13. Obviously, any additional legislation to add locations outside the Vietnam Theater of War will belong in Chapter 18, not Chapter 13. HR 6562 is applied to Chapter 13. It is therefore not suitable or appropriate to shoehorn non Vietnam Theater Veterans into HR 6562.

Understand, that the above paragraph applies as the definition of service in Korea for the purposes of giving benefits for Children of these Veterans who have Spina Bifida, a genetic birth defect often found in the children of Veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Nevertheless, it is the definition of who is eligible, who Congress has recognized as eligible for benefits for exposure to Agent Orange. Note that it does say that the benefits will be the same as the benefits for the Children of Vietnam Vets, yet this remains in Chapter 18 because the qualifying criteria are quite different, the dates , location, and specific units are quite different than those who served in Vietnam and are covered under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. And of principle importance is the fact that those who served in Korea did not receive the Vietnam Service Medal for that service. Again, that's why the Korean definition is in Chapter 18, not Chapter 13 with the Vietnam regulations.

This, then, is a gift for those seeking benefits for Agent Orange presumption in locations other than the Vietnam Theater of War, for here is the Congressional and Department of Defense admission that troops in Korea were exposed, ipso facto.

Those folks who are leading the effort to add the locations outside of the Vietnam Theater of War to HR 6562 are convinced they are making an effort that will force Congress to accede to their will. Most Blue Water Navy Veterans are totally unaware of this effort and would be shocked at who is involved with it. We will let those individuals come forward on their own to state their case publicly. The Blue Water Navy Sailors should have had a full understanding of what some of their leaders were trying to do, but this was not the case. It is being done in secret, and no dissenting arguments are permitted.

And their actions will likely torpedo HR 6562 if they continue on the course they have charted.

It is unfortunate that there are those among us, leaders among us, who would risk everything, that is risk the future legacies of all Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and TLC [Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia] Veterans for a fundamental error of logic, reason, and common sense. Apparently it is more important to be important than to be correct.

We would add one other truth to this. Only Congress [legally] and the DVA [illegally] can leave someone behind. Accusations from one Veteran to another that he would leave a fellow Veteran behind are despicable, and beneath contempt.

There is much to ponder here. There is much to consider in terms of wrapping your mind around all of this. We will not name any names. It should not be necessary. But you have the right to know, no, the imperative to know what your leaders are up to, and how their actions will likely affect you.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What You Are Up Against

We have gotten a great response from you so far. The results coming in are strong. But the numbers leave a wide gap in performance. While we have explained before that this is not only your future at stake, it is your legacy as well, not enough of you are reaching your CongressCritters.

In case you need a little more incentive to make direct contact with your Representative and your Senators [to ask them to introduce a Senate version of HR 6562 for concurrent consideration], consider what your opposition is up to.

While you are staying home in the air conditioning, lawyers, staffers and lobbyists representing the Department of Veterans Affairs are wining and dining your Congressman, and your Senators, putting them up for a four day weekend at Sandals, or Hilton Head, with or without their wives. They are treating them to great golf courses, Broadway shows, concerts, and the whole time they are in their ears telling them how bad a move HR 6562 is!

And they are using your tax dollars to do it.

Dirty pool? You bet! Effective? What do you think?

Oh, and those staffers you have to go through to get to your CongressCritters???? They are beneficiaries, too, of the taxpayer-funded largesse of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

That is part of what you are up against.

By now you should be angry enough to make the trip to see your CongressCritter. It is the one sure thing that will trump whatever the DVA can do. Oh, the Congressional folks may play those golf courses, may go see those Broadway shows, and may make DVA funded junkets to St. Thomas, or the Bahamas to study coral reef erosion and its effects on Veterans. But if they get a visit from you, and you get from them both a promise to co-sponsor HR 6562 in the House, or to introduce the Senate version of that same bill, then you will have gained the upper hand. In the end, the CongressCritter will realize that there will be other junkets, other Broadway shows, other weekends in a resort somewhere, funded by other agencies, or private lobbying firms, but you, YOU, the person who drew the promise from them are a voter. And that trumps everything else.

The real battlegound is in the Senate. That is where the margin of Democrats over Republicans is not as effective because of the way votes are done in that chamber. And you must drive the Senate to vote the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 by at least a 70-75% margin. That is, we need 70-75 votes to ensure that passage of the bill is veto-proof. That means you must lure a substantial number of Republican Senators from under the umbrella of the Administration which will be applying pressure on them.

You must realize as well that as sick as you are, you still must make the trip. Go by wheelchair, take your oxygen tank with you, your cane, your crutches. That will reinforce the point that we are dying at an excessive rate. Tell them how important it is to get your claim processed before you die so your widow will have something left to live on. This, too, trumps efforts by the DVA to sway Congress to sink HR 6562.

Oh, and tell them you'll be watching.

You have the advantage. It's up to you to make use of it and get your CongressCritter's commitment.

Thanks to you all for what you have accomplished so far. You've been great. Keep up the good work. It will be worth it in the end. And you will have the satisfaction of having a major role in Constitutional government. And most importantly, you will have your legacy at last.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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

Copyright © 2005-2008: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.