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.


”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.


  1. Anonymous12:01

    So all this crowing about how great it was to have Filner on our side and then we get screwed.

    As far as I am concerned the whole damn bunch can go to hell.


  2. In this case, it is not Filner, but a bunch of Veterans who served outside of Vietnam. Filner tried to be accomodating. Rather than get these different groups through piecemeal, which would be easier and take as long to complete, yet it would allow groups to get their benefits faster, they insisted on getting it all with one bite of the apple.

    The question is: how long will Congress take to pass the big, one bite bill, if they pass it at all.

    This one proves the adage: A Veterans worst enemy is another Veteran.

  3. Anonymous13:55

    Anyone who is paying attention should be able to see that Filner is playing this for whatever press he can get. He had to know the legislation would take a long time to get through, even in the original format. Now all he has done is kill the whole thing. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that this will ever get done now. Screwed again.

  4. It was not Filner who did this. It was a group of Veterans, including some Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association leadership.

    They chose to insist on getting everything into one package, one bite for the whole apple, if you will.

    The result is the latest news, related above.

    Frankly, Filner would not have introduced HR 6562 unless he felt it could get through this session.

    Now it can't.

    And so, the originally intended beneficiaries of HR 6562, the Blue Water Navy, Coast Guard, Fletter Marines, the Blue Sky Air Force, and the Veterans of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia will have to wait far longer than a year, closer to two or more, to get their benefits, if the new bill next session passes at all.

    Far better to eat an apple one bite at a time than to try to cram the whole thing in at once where it will probably choke you to death.

    Don't blame Filner for this. As I said above, the Veteran's worst enemy is another Veteran. That is the case here. Thank leadership of BWNVVA for screwing their own members.

  5. Anonymous17:16

    This new bill will be so top heavy that it will go down under its own weight. Now, we who have been, writing, calling and emailing our Senators and Congressmen asking them to support and co-sponser HR 6562 Look like a bunch of Rubes and Gomers. Victory was ours for the taking but we got shot down by Friendly fire. What were these people's motives; who knows, it sure wasn't for the welfare of the BWN, USCG, the Fleet Marine Force and the TLC veterans. I for one am thoroughly fed up with these well-intentioned fools if one can them well-intentioned. Their sabatoge is unforgiveable and we all had better keep an eye on them in the future.

  6. Anonymous20:41

    I was asking in 79, there was some money given, I did not see a dime. I have beffed every sence, I am sure I will be long dead by the time it is setteled. I believe that has been the plan all along, Airmen, use them and then loose them.

    Does anyone care? doubt it.