Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Remarkable Letter to the DVA

We would like to make you aware of a recent exchange of letters between a VASVW Member and Bradley G. Mayes, Director of Compensation And Pension Services, Department of Veterans Affairs.

Joe Covington is a Blue Water Navy Veteran and member of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War.

You can read Mr. Mayes letter [and should do so] by going to Joe's blog, A Citizen's Reflection, and check the links for his letter near the top of the right sidebar.

Meanwhile, here is Joe's remarkable response to Mr. Mayes.

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Dear Mr. Mayes,

Thank you for the quick response, from your office staff, in reference to my concerns about the decision of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs not to provide certain earned and promised benefits to the Blue Water Naval (BWN) Veterans of the Vietnam War. In your letter, you stated that the DVA’s decision was based on “factual circumstances” of the use of “tactical herbicides” during the Vietnam War. You also spoke of this decision as not being a sign of disrespect directed at the Blue Water Naval Veterans. But it is my opinion, as well as many others, that the DVA’s failure to act appropriately and honestly to consider all of the “factual circumstances” that was part of the War, is a sign of disrespect, dishonesty and Yes, it is being directed at us Naval Veterans who volunteered our services to our country, we had a choice, as we were not drafted.

The statements contained in your letter indicates one of two things to me, either you are not really familiar with the actual facts of the operations during the war, or you are dishonestly attempting to portray the facts in a skewed manner.

Let me demonstrate what I mean, in your letter you said that there were no herbicides used over open waters, yet numerous records have been found that prove that it was a common practice for the “Ranch Hand” fixed-wing aircraft landing at Da Nang airbase to jettison their remaining chemicals over open water, some were jettisoning several thousand gallons at a time, due to having to make emergency landings. Flight records also show that these fixed wing aircraft used a flight path over the open water in its approach to and departure from Da Nang airbase; recovered maintenance records indicates that the release valves on most these aircraft were leaking these “tactical herbicides”, therefore being disbursed over open water. What all this means is that it appears that the fairness of your assessment does not consider all of the “factual circumstances” surrounding “tactical herbicides” and open water.

In your letter you also indicated that the only run off into the South China Sea might have occurred in the Mekong River Delta Area and you also say that was a “unique and limited” environment. But sir, records that are in the herbs tapes indicate that there was heavy spraying of “tactical herbicides” in the Quang Tri, Ashau Valley areas from the eastern border with Laos, all the way to the coast as well as south of Da Nang., as well as most areas in South Vietnam. All of the rivers and inland waterways of South Vietnam emptied into the South China Sea. That means that the runoff from this area was directly deposited into the areas, as you admitted, our ships were operating within. Also, keep in mind that the herb tapes did not record the dispensing of “tactical herbicides” by hand, boat or helicopter which other records unmistakably indicates that these methods of dispensing of “tactical herbicides” were largely used in the coastal and inland waterway areas. So once again it appears that the fairness of your assessment does not consider all of the “factual circumstances” surrounding the use of “tactical herbicides” and its runoff into all of the areas that our ships were operating.

I also wanted to remind you that the Dixie Station operating area was actually within the runoff area of the Mekong River and other inland waterway of Southern South Vietnam. So that would put the BWN that was operating in the area, by your admission, within the contaminated areas of the South China Sea. So once again the fairness of your assessment does not consider all of the “factual circumstances” surrounding the use of “tactical herbicides”

You also stated in your letter that the vast majority of BWN Veterans were stationed on aircraft carriers that were over 100 miles off shore. Yet records have consistently shown that these ships did not stay that distance away from the coast. As a matter of fact, most everyone knows that when these ships were conducting flight ops they had to steam into the wind. Metrological records, from the time period in question and location, indicated that the prevailing winds were from the North West. Therefore these ships were always steaming toward the coast while conducting flight ops. Now common sense should tell anyone that conducting twelve hours of flight ops, with at least six or more of those hours in the wind, launching and recovering aircraft while steaming at 25+ knots, would clearly put these ships in close proximity to the coast. I specifically remember there were times that we were within sight of the coast and we watched the CRUDES gunships fire on land based positions, they were normally within thousand yards of the coast when firing, which was an amazing light show at night. So, once again, it appears that the fairness of your assumptions do not consider all of the “factual circumstances” of the operations of the ships off the coast of South Vietnam.

You said that your “factual circumstances” do not support the general conclusion that BWN Veterans were exposed to “tactical herbicides” in the same manner as Veterans who served on the ground and on the inland waterways of Vietnam. You are right, but again that is not the BWN’s contention, it is the BWN’s contention that there is more than one way to be exposed to those “tactical herbicides” and it is the contention of the BWN Veterans that it appears the fairness of your assumptions do not consider all of the “factual circumstances” or methods of that exposure to the “tactical herbicides” that were used throughout South Vietnam.

So when I look at the manner in which the “factual circumstances” are used or rather misused by the DVA to exclude these Veterans from the benefits that were earned and provided before 2002, I do believe that truly does show a high degree of disrespect directed toward these BWN Veterans. Also, when you say that we only “supported the war effort” or refer to us as only “Vietnam Era Veterans”, I and many others do consider those actions and statements, when used by those at the DVA, to be very insulting and disrespectful toward all of us who volunteered our services to our country, not to mention the denigrating affect on the BWN that didn’t come home, these Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War were in a war, they were not just supporting one and the Naval Veterans are war veterans not “era” veterans.

In your letter you went on to say that the IOM’s statements were “speculative and academic.” Let me remind you that when the IOM was contracted by the DVA under the direction of Congress, the purpose of that contract was create a non-biased, non-governmental controlled method to review all the scientific and medical evidence currently available that pertains to the effects of the herbicides and the Veterans of the Vietnam War, which by the way, did include the BWN at that time.

PL 102-4, SEC. 3. AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
Purpose.--The purpose of this section is to provide for the National Academy of Sciences, an independent nonprofit scientific organization with appropriate expertise which is not part of the Federal Government, to review and evaluate the available scientific evidence regarding associations between diseases and exposure to dioxin and other chemical compounds in herbicides.

What the above means to most people is that the IOM is to determine if there is an association that exists between “tactical herbicides” and diseases within the population of Vietnam War Veterans, thus the finding of an association between “tactical herbicides” usage and the diseases it causes within the population of BWN is well within that stated purpose.

So therefore, based on that highly educated and comprehensive review of all of the materials available, they reported their findings and opinions to the Secretary of the DVA in the form of recommendations, in this instance it is their recommendation that due to all of the scientific and medical evidence available, there is an established link or association to the use of “tactical herbicides” and the BWN’s illnesses. However, because those recommendations appear to be contrary to the DVA’s non-scientific and non-medically based politically motivated decision that contends that there is no link or association between the BWN and use of “tactical herbicides” then the IOM’s recommendation must be “speculative and academic.”

Sir, I submit that their findings are not outside the bounds of their purview, it is what they were required to do, just because their assessment does not portray the evidence in the manner that the DVA wanted it to, it is your conclusion that it means nothing and therefore they overstepped their bounds. You see, that is exactly what I am saying. If the DVA doesn’t like the result of something, they just ignore it or say it is “speculative or academic”, thus lending more creditably to the belief that the DVA’s actions do express a disrespectful attitude toward the Vietnam War BWN Veterans.

You don’t suppose that the decision to exclude the BWN from this coverage, which was based only on an opinion that was developed from a speculative assessment of the intent of Congress by a DVA employed Attorney, would be any different do you? If the DVA is using a legal opinion, as publicly stated and sworn to in a court of law, from your employed attorney to base the removal of these Vietnam War Veterans from coverage, then why do you state in your letter that the “this decision was based on to the factual circumstances of tactical herbicides use in Vietnam?” You see, speaking out of both sides of your mouth is the very reason that many believe, and rightly so, that this decision was nothing more than a politically motivated pronouncement that cannot be backed up by science or any other honestly presented evidence.

As another example, let me ask this, can you or anyone there tell me why NHL is linked to exposure to “tactical herbicides” for “in-country” forces, yet it is not linked to exposure to “tactical herbicides” for the BWN. Do not tell me that its origin in the BWN could not be determined; as its link was found during the same CDC study that linked NHL in “in-country” forces to the use of “tactical herbicides.” The only difference being is it was at a higher rate of occurrence in BWN than it was for the “in-country” forces, kind of like some of these other illnesses that have not been attributed to exposure to “tactical herbicides” in BWN but they are attributed to exposure to “tactical herbicides” within the ranks of “in-country” forces. So once again the fairness of your assessment does not consider all of the “factual circumstances” surrounding the use of “tactical herbicides”

Now let’s look at this from what is possibly a vicarious liability standpoint, if the DVA knows that NHL and these other illnesses that the BWN has contracted at a higher rate than the civilian population were not caused by these “tactical herbicides”, and for the last 35 years have done nothing to find out what did cause these service connected illnesses, then they have failed to do the job given them by Congress. In reality, the “factual circumstance” is either one of two things, either they were caused by the use of “tactical herbicides”, and the DVA is knowingly, intentionally and negligently derelict in their duty by denying these war time Veterans their rightfully earned benefits, or the DVA knows these illnesses were not caused by “tactical herbicides” but some other service related issue, similar to what the DVA claims to have caused NHL in BWN, then the DVA has been knowingly, intentionally and negligently derelict in their duty to determine the cause of these illnesses and then provide the appropriate care and benefits for these veterans.

In either case it is plain to see that the DVA has been knowingly, intentionally and negligently derelict, therefore, something should be done immediately to correct this matter, first of all, those responsible for this continuing catastrophic breakdown of required duties, should be held accountable and it should not take another study or 35 more years to be completed. Yes, this is just another example of why I and a lot of others consider the actions of the DVA, in this matter, to be disrespectful and shameful and it is being directed toward the Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War.

Another point that demonstrates this disrespectful and shameful conduct is shown when shortly after the announcement of the release of the IOM’s update, someone at the DVA put out a statement that the IOM recommended that more studies be conducted in the area of BWN and exposure to “tactical herbicides”. Sir, I respectfully submit that they did not recommend anything of the such, they clearly said that there was obvious and direct evidence that indicates that the BWN was at risk to exposure to the “tactical herbicides” used in Vietnam. This is just another example of how the “factual circumstances” are being misconstrued by the DVA in order to protect the ones that should be held accountable for this disgraceful dereliction of duty directed at these Vietnam War Veterans.

Think about this, the DVA releases a projection that if this proposed change in direction were to take place, it would provide over 800,000 additional Veterans coverage under the presumption of exposure. Thus it would cost some 27 billion dollars a year to pay for this change. Now I don’t mind telling you that is a little outrageous and it borders on ridiculous. DOD numbers indicated that there were only 514,000 offshore veterans at the end of the war. I am pretty sure some of them have died in the interim. I do think that if the death rates stayed the same since the last census then that 800,000 would probably be the total number of Vietnam War Veterans alive, not the ones affected by this proposed change. That number would most likely be closer to 100,000 or less. For someone at the DVA to make such a projection as erroneous as these numbers appear to be, just demonstrates even further what I and many others have been saying all along. These and similar actions of those at the DVA obviously projects an attitude of disrespect and in this case it is being directed towards the Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War.

So in closing, I once again, implore you to correct these appalling failures on the DVA’s part and not procrastinate any longer. These honorable men and women are dying at a very high rate and your failure to act appropriately and promptly in this matter will continue to be perceived as a demonstration of an extremely disrespectful and shameful attitude, which is unquestionably being directed at the Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War.

Respectfully submitted,

Joe L. Covington, USN
Veteran of the Vietnam War,
1971 to 1973

Cc: Eric Shineski, Secretary of DVA
Patrick Dunne, Deputy Secretary of DVA
Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman, House Veteran’s Affairs
Thomas “Chet” Edwards, United States Representative
John Cornyn, United States Senator
John Wells, Attorney-at-law, Veterans Advocate
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We advise you to follow Joe's blog, A Citizen's Reflection, regularly. As you can see from above, it will be well worth your while.

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 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 © 2005-2010: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day: A Sermon on Sacrifice

This past Sunday we participated in a special service honoring Veterans at a local church. We joined the Pastor of the church in the Sermon, in which we attempted to define sacrifice as it pertains to our Veterans, and indeed, to all persons. Here is that Sermon.

Pastor: Introduction

When I began to consider our Veteran’s Day observance and how to plan worship, the first thing I had to consider was the assigned scripture reading. When I saw that it was Hebrews, with an emphasis on Jesus as a sacrifice, it seemed a perfect reading to explore on this particular Sunday. Sacrifice is a word that we throw around pretty freely, and yet seldom pause to consider what it really means. This seems an excellent occasion to do just that.

The Letter to the Hebrews is a puzzling, and sometimes disturbing book of the Bible. It is easily overlooked since it is not a letter written by Paul, and also because its language is very strange to us. It is the language of temple, priest, altar, atoning blood …Old Testament terms that we thought we had left behind in the New Testament. It is unfamiliar territory for which we have no point of reference. But the book of Hebrews does center on a word that we use quite frequently: sacrifice.

Our task this morning is to clarify what we mean by the word “sacrifice”, and to examine the distinction between the sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice made on our behalf by our military veterans. How is it the same, and how is it different?

Response: A brief statement about the importance of a Veteran’s Day observance.

The word Veteran stems from the Latin word vetus, meaning old. We think of Veterans that way, yet, today we look around and see those we call Veterans of a much younger age. The parades are no longer for the old men in tight suits and campaign hats, but also for younger men and women, who have borne the battle.

Barely a month before his death, Abraham Lincoln strode to the rostrum on the steps of the United States Capitol Building and gave one of his greatest speeches -- his Second Inaugural Address. The Great Emancipator ended his short speech with words that have echoed down the long and dusty halls of history:

"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."
The long Civil War was ending, and Lincoln knew it. His thoughts had already turned to reconstructing the nation torn apart by a war that killed more than a half-million men. And in those thoughts Lincoln chose to lay the groundwork “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan…”

Today, those words still hold as a receipt for a debt owed by a nation that sends its young folks off to war as surrogates for its citizenry, as representatives of a National Policy, and as the purveyors of Democracy, Liberty, and Freedom. During that time, they are called troop, soldier, sailor, Marine, airman, Coast Guardsman…but once that service is ended, they are, forevermore, Veterans of the United States military.

As Veterans, they deserve a special place of honor in our society, and our culture, for they have written a blank check, backed by their own life and limb, and serving in place of all of us who do not go, and to keep us all free.

Pastor: The General Definition of Sacrifice

Sacrifice is a word people use when they find themselves indebted to someone or some group for things that sustain life or rescue life. [Peter Schmiechen defines sacrifice, 53-54, Saving Power] People speak of their parents making sacrifices. We honor people who speak the truth and who suffered consequences for it, such Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King. We describe the loss of life in war as a sacrifice made to defend a nation or made for a cause like freedom.

The word sacrifice has these general uses when we wish to refer to something done for us, without concern for self. When the sacrifice involves the shedding of blood, we reach a level that has power far beyond what we can estimate in words. ‘Sacer’ means holy and ‘facere’ means “to make”. As Gil Bailie points out in his many writings on sacrifice-- that does not really define the many ways in which “sacrifice” is used since there are many ways of “making holy” that are not sacrifices, and sacrifices that, in effect, make nothing holy. The recent shooting at Foot Hood

Response: The nature of sacrifice as offered during war

On September 12th, 1861, a 25 year old farmer from nearby southern Lancaster County left his farm, and family and marched off to war against the Confederacy with the 79th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the Lancaster Rifles. In late 1863, this two year regiment reenlisted en masse, earning the right to proudly display the word “Veteran” on their Battle Colors -- the 79th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Nearly four years after his enlistment, Sergeant William T. Clark returned to that farm, older by those four years, experienced in soldiering, and nursing wounds that would eventually kill him four decades later. Clark, wounded three times at the Battle of Perryville, KY, in 1862, and again at the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, would serve as the Judge of Elections in November of 1864 when members of his regiment proudly voted for Abraham Lincoln’s reelection.

Clark’s blank check cost him the partial use of one arm and issues with his intestinal tract due to his wounds, and a lifetime of battling malaria from his time in the deep south. During his nearly four years in the 79th Pennsylvania, Clark, and the Regiment, spent less than 60 nights under a roof.

On September 29th, 2006, another 25 year-old’s blank check was cashed. Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, a United States Navy Seal, already a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for courage and gallantry above and beyond the call of duty, gave his life in Service to his country, and to his fellow Seals. His official citation reads as follows:

"FOR CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY AND INTREPIDITY AT THE RISK OF HIS LIFE ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY AS AUTOMATIC WEAPONS GUNNER FOR NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE TASK GROUP ARABIAN PENINSULA, IN SUPPORT OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2006. AS A MEMBER OF A COMBINED SEAL AND IRAQI ARMY SNIPER OVERWATCH ELEMENT, TASKED WITH PROVIDING EARLY WARNING AND STAND-OFF PROTECTION FROM A ROOFTOP IN AN INSURGENT HELD SECTOR OF AR RAMADI, IRAQ, PETTY OFFICER MONSOOR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF BY HIS EXCEPTIONAL BRAVERY IN THE FACE OF GRAVE DANGER. IN THE EARLY MORNING, INSURGENTS PREPARED TO EXECUTE A COORDINATED ATTACK BY RECONNOITERING THE AREA AROUND THE ELEMENT’S POSITION. ELEMENT SNIPERS THWARTED THE ENEMY’S INITIAL ATTEMPT BY ELIMINATING TWO INSURGENTS. THE ENEMY CONTINUED TO ASSAULT THE ELEMENT, ENGAGING THEM WITH A ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADE AND SMALL ARMS FIRE. AS ENEMY ACTIVITY INCREASED, PETTY OFFICER MONSOOR TOOK POSITION WITH HIS MACHINE GUN BETWEEN TWO TEAMMATES ON AN OUTCROPPING OF THE ROOF. WHILE THE SEALS VIGILANTLY WATCHED FOR ENEMY ACTIVITY, AN INSURGENT THREW A HAND GRENADE FROM AN UNSEEN LOCATION, WHICH BOUNCED OFF PETTY OFFICER MONSOOR’S CHEST AND LANDED IN FRONT OF HIM. ALTHOUGH ONLY HE COULD HAVE ESCAPED THE BLAST, PETTY OFFICER MONSOOR CHOSE INSTEAD TO PROTECT HIS TEAMMATES. INSTANTLY AND WITHOUT REGARD FOR HIS OWN SAFETY, HE THREW HIMSELF ONTO THE GRENADE TO ABSORB THE FORCE OF THE EXPLOSION WITH HIS BODY, SAVING THE LIVES OF HIS TWO TEAMMATES. BY HIS UNDAUNTED COURAGE, FIGHTING SPIRIT, AND UNWAVERING DEVOTION TO DUTY IN THE FACE OF CERTAIN DEATH, PETTY OFFICER MONSOOR GALLANTLY GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS COUNTRY, THEREBY REFLECTING GREAT CREDIT UPON HIMSELF AND UPHOLDING THE HIGHEST TRADITIONS OF THE UNITED STATES NAVAL SERVICE."
For his extraordinary courage, his country awarded him the Medal Of Honor.

Navy Seals wear a distinctive gold pin combining a trident, anchor and Eagle. At his funeral, Navy Seals lined up on each side of his coffin and as it passed, each one slapped his Seal pin into the wooden lid as a final tribute to their fallen brother.

Petty Officer Michael Monsoor’s blank check was paid in full.

Pastor: The nature of sacrifice in scripture

The book of Hebrews takes the Old Testament notion of sacrifice and casts it in New Testament terms. [N.T. Wright, 94f, in Hebrews for Everyone] In the old system, the priests went daily into the Temple (the successor of the wilderness tabernacle) and the high priest went annually into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. Sacrifices were made as part of those rituals. In the “old” notion of sacrifice- the people were rescued from sin by the life of the sacrificial animal. Their sins were symbolically placed on the sacrificial animal, as a substitute for them. People could begin again, with a clean slate.

N.T. Wright says that Hebrews points to an inherent flaw in the old system. If my car is not working, and I have to take it back to the mechanic week after week—he obviously has not succeeded in fixing it. The fact that the old sacrifices had to be made over and over again meant that they had not gotten to the root of the problem.

Hebrews explains that all along, the tabernacle or Temple was always a temporary substitute for something brand new being worked out by God. The new sacrifice system spoken of in Hebrews is not the blood of animals, but the blood of the Messiah. Finally, the sacrifice of Jesus reaches deep inside of us, to transform us at the core of our being. We are not washed clean, we are made brand new. The priests stood daily at their sacrificial duties. Jesus doesn’t have to offer his sacrifice anymore. It is complete.

When Jesus submitted to those who killed him rather than exercising violence, the temple veil was torn in half and something brand new happened on that darkest of days. An event that first seemed to be so terrible and final was transformed by Christ into a brand new way of existence. We worship a God who chooses to suffer violence rather than meet it in kind. God enters into humankind’s 10,000 year cycle of violence and thus breaks the cycle forever.

Response: Where and how does love operate in the actions of the warrior who goes forth on our behalf?

In the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 15, verse 13, Jesus instructs us:

“…Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In this way, Jesus defines sacrifice as an act of love. Not an act of hate, or an act of war, but an act of love. So who is it that is the object of this love? Well, it is those who serve with the Veteran most assuredly, and any Veteran can tell you that the bond between those who serve in war together indeed creates a “band of brothers." Some Veterans will deny this bond, calling it brotherhood, but we know it is love, for so Jesus showed us. Did he not lay down his life for all of us? Did he not choose to allow others to end his life in a most horrible fashion, knowing full well what was in store for him, and did he not do so without remorse, without a second thought? And that love extends back to us…to you…to me…to all of us, for did He not go in our stead? Did the Veteran not go in our stead?

And so, it is love that causes men like William Clark to leave a verdant farm and loving family to march off to war, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with his friends, neighbors and fellow soldiers, braving the heat and ferocity of battle, even though wounded.

And men like Michael Monsoor, who laid down his life for his friends.

Those blank checks are far too often paid for in blood and breath, tears and trauma, yet…yet…they were written and tendered with love.

Pastor: Conclusion:

How do we compare the sacrifices made by our Veterans and that made by Jesus on the cross?

1. Both are both costly and precious
2. Both are made in love
3. But only the sacrifice of Jesus shows us the way out of the cycle of violence in which we have been held for millennia.

Jesus lived a non-violent life and through his life teaches us to do the same. But the Christian Church has been ambivalent about war since the theory of just war was developed by St. Augustine. The theory assumes that non-violence is the norm for Christians, but expresses conditions in which we can ignore these fundamental Christian teachings.

We are still locked into a cycle of violence that sends out substitutionary sacrifices (Military men and women), because we are unable to live in the way that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. We have not yet learned the new way of being that Jesus demonstrated for us, in his sacrifice. In Christ, God is creating a new way of being, a new community of reconciliation by resisting and overcoming the power of the world with God’s saving power.

By Jesus’ resistance to violence he breaks the cycle of violence. “It is possible” proclaims the cross! “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” With these words, Jesus inaugurates a new age. We have only to embrace this wondrous love, and show it in our own lives and actions to help usher in this new age. We best honor our Veterans by working for peace, so that this generation of warriors might be the last.

End

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Senator Gillibrand Introduces S.1939 & S.1940

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced S.1939 and S.1940 yesterday. The bills are listed thus in the Library of Congress's Thomas Website:

S.1939
Title: A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 10/27/2009) Cosponsors (4)
Latest Major Action: 10/27/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.


S.1940
Title: A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a study on the effects on children of exposure of their parents to herbicides used in support of the United States and allied military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 10/27/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 10/27/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

There are no details yet on either of these bills, but we understand that S.1939 is the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, in the same form as HR 2254 in the House.

We have high hopes for the second bill as well, S.1940, which deals with the children of those exposed to Herbicides.

Let's get behind this Senator's bills and push for support to pass and fully fund both bills. Co-sponsorship is one way to show that support, and you, the constituents of the United States Senators, hold keys to to getting them to provide the Co-sponsorship and support. Call them today, tommorrow, and until they agree to Co-sponsor S.1930 and S.1940.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gillibrand Introduces AO Equity Act in Senate!

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 in the Senate today. The bill will, when enacted, restore presumptive eligibility for exposure to herbicides to Veterans of the Vietnam War who served in the Blue Water Navy, the Blue Sky Air Force, and those who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, all of whom were included in the original Agent Orange Act of 1991, but were later removed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Senate bill joins its companion, HR 2254, introduced in the US House of Representatives in May of this year by Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. We do not have a bill number yet, but will post that as soon as it becomes available.

Ostensibly, the introduction of the same bill in the Senate as in the House will shorten its path to enactment, making very real the possibility of a signed bill by the end of this year, certainly by the end of February.

Now is the time to concentrate on contacting your US Senator to support, and fund the bill in the Senate, and to co-sponsor it. There are already some co-sponsors [the list isn't up quite yet], but we are shooting for 67, a veto proof majority.

Please contact your Senators [both!] and ask them to co-sponsor the bill today! Phone is good, in person is best, fax is also good. Letters will not work as they sit in a warehouse waiting to be checked for anthrax for at least a month. Here is a link to a directory of contacts in the US Senate.

We have never been closer that this in the last few years.

Keep the momentum going! Get your Senators to co-sponsor the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009!

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gillibrand to Introduce '09 AO Equity Act in Senate

Word just in that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has announced that she will introduce the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 in the Senate this week. Details are not available yet, there is no bill number and we believe the bill is worded identical to HR 2254.

We will of course, keep you posted on this important action.

Many thanks go to Carol Olszanecki and Susie Belanger for their persistance and skill in winning this important action in the US Senate. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their tireless efforts and years of hard work. These are two wonderful ladies who have dedicated their efforts for many years into righting the wrong of the Blue Water Navy Veterans with the DVA.

We are also extremely grateful to Senator Gillibrand for standing tall on behalf of the Blue Water Navy Veterans and introducing this bill.

Three very staunch and standup ladies have earned our gratitude and respect. We salute them.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

BWN Bill Moving Forward in both Houses?

There are unconfirmed reports that the work of several Veterans Service Organizations and some individual advocates for the passage of Blue Water Navy bills in Congress may have sewed up a sponsor for the Senate version of HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009.

HR 2254 now has 137 sponsors in the US House of Representatives, and should shortly move out of the House Veterans Affairs Sub-committee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. An introduction into the Senate to move concurrently with the House bill would shorten the time needed for enactment.

Needless to say, we will confirm this news when and if it actually happens, but the sources of the possible news on the bill are trusted.

We hesitated to post this before confirming the news, but feel quite strongly that those Vets, spouses, Survivors, and advocates who have worked so hard for over a year to keep Congress aware of and supportive of the legislation deserved to get their hopes up.

Hang in, turn the heat up a notch on the Senate, and keep pressing for sponsorship of the bill, which includes support for the bill and funding for it.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Restructuring the DVA Part 3: IT Data Sharing

One of the complaints placed before an apparently gullible Congress is the inability over the decades to marry the Information Technology [IT - meaning computer systems and networks] systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA] and the Department of Defense [DoD] for medical and service records for troops transitioning from Active Military to Veteran status after wounding or injury in combat or in routine service.

Government Departments tend to stovepipe, blowing their smoke straight up. As a result, since the dawn of the computer age, each government department tended to order their own equipment, their own layouts for networking and their own software versions of what is on the market. So the DoD, with System A on network 1 can't talk directly with System B on the DVA's network 2. At least that is what they tell Congress.

It is pure horse puckey. IT departments in business and in Government get complacent in their uniqueness, and in some cases think they own and operate the department they serve. They jealously guard their terriory, just like the rhino that craps in the corners of his territory. [See Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey.] Accordingly, they jealously guard their systems under the pretext of system and network security and do not allow data to either come in, or go out except by authorized users. Authorized users from other departments do not cross departmental lines. Therefore, data are seldom shared without jackhammers and an occasional stick of blasting dynamite.

The solution is simple. Networking has progressed today to the point that two networks can communicate with each other securely simply by easily written software code that allows two machines to talk to each other. It is like adding someone else's computer to your home network.

As for the computer language differences, the solution is also simple. Two small workgroups decide on the definitions of each data element to be shared. Data elements would be such things as Last Name, Age, Date of Birth, Service Number, Social Security Number, medical condition one, medical condfition two, home address, date of wound, date of injury, combat related yes, combat related no, and so on.

Once these small work groups from DVA and DoD agree on the definitions of all the data elements, mapping begins. Mapping simply is matching up one string of data elements to another, so that the data is shifted to the appropriate database and table. Once the mapping is done, data exchange can occur.

DoD then sends their entire database of medical and service records for individuals transferring from active military to Veteran status.

Data exchange has occurred at this point. All DVA needs to do is run a match to find previous data that matches, and only update where new data comes in.

The new [non-matched] individuals are automatically assigned claim numbers [a separate database would hold ID data that matches claim number, service number, and social security number for a three part validation system to eliminate ID errors] and their cases are assigned to claims processors who now no longer have to establish who they are dealing with and how they came to be wounded or injured Veterans. Now they only need to deal with the severity of the problem, where they will receive treatment, and authorize their compensation checks.

Done on a nightly basis so new data arrives fresh every morning, this system of data exchange will eliminate long backlogs of unprocessed claims for those transitioning from active military to disabled Veteran status.

Think about how simple this is. If Google can tap into millions of databases around the world to find websites and match those websites to your search criteria, and do it in many different languages, why should it be so difficult for DoD and DVA to share their medical and service record data?

Next: Tackling the older Veterans claims backlog.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Target: The Senate of the United States

To date, no US Senator has had the intestinal fortitude to step up and do the right thing for Vietnam Veteran Sailors, and Airmen. It is time to change that abysmal record.

Congress is now going home for a month, returning to session in September, after Labor Day. [Don't you wish your work had a schedule like theirs? All that money for a part time job!]

Here is the strategy for targeting the Senate on behalf of HR 2254.

Come Monday morning hit the phones. Contact both your Senators' local offices and make appointments to meet with them and/or their Chief of Staff and/or Veterans Aide. Not the military affairs officer, but the Veterans Affairs person.

Take with you the "Pertinent Citations from the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" [click on title to get a copy to download and save and print out]. It explains the science and the Australian precedent behind being "right" on this bill. Leave several copies and promise them a link to the entire report of over 600 pages if they so wish to see it.
  • Inform them that the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008 contains the ONLY science that pertains to Agent Orange and Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans ever put before the DVA.
  • Refer them to HR 2254.
  • Remind them this transcends partisan politics.
  • Inform them this bill will be an excellent economic stimulus.
  • Inform them there are more than a dozen state legislatures with resolutions in the works calling on them to fully support and fund the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009.
  • Remind them this bill restores benefits illegally taken from Veterans by the DVA without adherence to the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • Inform them they will not only be restoring benefits to the Veterans, but their legacy, too, as the DVA's actions stripped us of official recognition of our role in the Vietnam War.
  • Remind them that passing this bill is the politically, ethically and morally right thing to do.
What exactly do you want from your Senators?

You want them to introduce and fully support the passage and funding of the Senate Version of HR 2254. If they agree, please have them contact Congressman Bob Filner's staff to coordinate.

If they will not introduce [sponsor] the bill, ask them to co-sponsor and fully support the passage and funding of the Senate version of HR 2254.

Please, use reason, not emotion, calm, not anger, and persuasion, not threats.

Please make notes during your meeting, if possible, or immediately afterwards, and please email us ASAP with the results and specifics [use the "Email Me" link near the top of the left sidebar here].

Thank you, and good luck!

You did wonders with the House of Representatives, now re-work your magic with the Senate.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

News and Strategy

As of today, Thomas is showing 116 co-sponsors for HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, while GovTrack is showing 117!

Bravo Zulu to all VASVW members and our readers for all the hard work and a job well done.

Congress goes home this coming weekend for a whole month.

Let's go get those Senators!

We need 1 to introduce, and 50 to co-sponsor.

Get them while they are home. Come Monday morning contact both of your Senators and request a meeting with each of them at their regional office closest to you during the recess, and ask them to introduce the bill in the Senate, or co-sponsor.

Remember, a face to face is the best thing. If you can find their chief of staff, and their Veterans staffer, get them on your side, too.

We suggest to you that the recent surge of co-sponsors in the House was in no small part due to your efforts, and the IOM report that was released a week ago. So take advantage of that and go get those Senators! Make sure when you meet with someone you take along several copies of the Pertinent Citations from the IOM report. There is a file in the files section by that name you can download and print, if you are a VASVW member. If not, you can visit the regular VASVW website and dowload the form and document by clicking on the links below.

You will be armed, then, with the ONLY scientific evidence before the DVA regarding Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange exposure.

Those of you with pending claims, and those of you with recent denials, and those of you with pending appeals, download this VA Form [Statement in Support of Claim], a .pdf form that you can fill out with your keyboard and then print out [but you cannot save it filled out, so print extra copies after you have filled it out]. Then, download the "Pertinent Citations from the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" and attach that to the Statement in Support of Claim. In the body of the Statement in Support of Claim write something like this:

The attached citations from the "Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" provide scientific evidence to support the likelihood that the claimant was exposed to dioxins from the administration of herbicide spraying in the Republic of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, and said dioxin was exposed to U.S. Naval, Coast Guard, and Fleet Marine Force personnel serving at sea off the coast of Vietnam.
Submit that to the appropriate VA Agency [Regional Office for claims, Board of Veterans Appeals or the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, wherever your claim or appeal resides.]

Good luck.

Now, let's go get those Senators!

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pertinent Citations from the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2009

The following citations are taken from the IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2009. Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. This report was issued Friday, July 24, 2009

Pages 29-30:

Increased Risk in Vietnam Veterans
When all the available epidemiologic evidence has been evaluated, it is presumed that Vietnam veterans are at increased risk for a specific health outcome if there is evidence of a positive association between one or more of the chemicals of interest and the outcome. The best measure of potency for the quantification of risk to veterans would be the rate of the outcome in exposed Vietnam veterans compared with the rate in nonexposed veterans, adjusted for the degree to which any other factors that differ between exposed and nonexposed veterans might influence those rates. A dose–response relationship established in another human population suitably adjusted for such factors would be similarly suitable.

It is difficult to quantify risk when exposures of a population have not been measured accurately. Recent serum TCDD concentrations are available only on subgroups enrolled in the Air Force Health Study (AFHS) (the Ranch Hand and Southeast Asia comparison subjects) and from VA’s study of deployed and nondeployed members of the Army Chemical Corps. Pharmacokinetic models, with their own set of assumptions, must then be used to extrapolate back to obtain the most accurate estimates of original exposure available on Vietnam-era veterans. The absence of reliable measures of exposure to the chemicals of interest among Vietnam veterans limits the committee’s ability to quantify risks of specific diseases in this population.

Although serum TCDD measurements are available for only a small portion of Vietnam-era veterans, the observed distributions of these most reliable measures of exposure make it clear that they cannot be used as a standard to partition veterans into discrete exposure groups, such as service on Vietnamese soil, service in the Blue Water Navy, and service elsewhere in Southeast Asia. For example, many TCDD values observed in the comparison group from the AFHS exceeded US background levels and overlapped considerably with those of the Ranch Hand subjects.

As explained in Chapter 1, the committee for Update 2006 decided to make a general statement about its continuing inability to address that aspect of its charge quantitatively rather than reiterate a disclaimer in the concluding section for every health outcome, and this committee has retained that approach.


Page 46-47:

Exposure of Personnel Who Had Offshore Vietnam Service
US Navy riverine units are known to have used herbicides while patrolling inland waterways (Zumwalt, 1993; IOM, 1994), and it is generally acknowledged that estuarine waters became contaminated with herbicides and dioxin as a result of shoreline spraying and runoff from spraying on land. Thus, military personnel who did not serve on land were among those exposed to the chemicals during the Vietnam conflict. A particular concern for the personnel has been possible contamination of drinking water. Most vessels serving offshore but within the territorial limits of the Republic of Vietnam converted seawater to drinking water through distillation.

Higher than expected mortality among Royal Australian Navy Vietnam veterans prompted a study of potable-water contamination on ships offshore during the Vietnam conflict (Mueller et al., 2001, 2002). Specifically, the study investigated the potential for naval personnel to ingest TCDD and cacodylic acid in drinking water. The study focused on the evaporative distillation process that was used to produce potable water from surrounding estuarine waters. The study found that codistillation of dioxins was observable in all experiments conducted and that distillation increased the concentration of dioxins in the distillate compared with the concentration in the source water. The study also found that dimethylarsenic acid did not codistill to a great extent during evaporation and concluded that drinking water on ships was unlikely to have been contaminated with this herbicide. In a follow-up discussion of the study with its authors, it was noted that vessels would take up water for distillation as close to shore as possible to minimize salt content (Wells, 2006). On the basis of that study and other evidence, the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs determined that Royal Australian Navy personnel who served offshore were exposed to dioxins that resulted from herbicide spraying in Vietnam even if they did not go ashore during their tour of duty (ADVA, 2005).

The current committee engaged Steven Hawthorne as a consultant to review the Mueller et al. (2002) publication and to comment generally on the ability of organic compounds to codistill during the production of potable water. Hawthorne is an environmental chemist at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center and has specific expertise in the study of organic emissions from water (Hawthorne et al., 1985). He affirmed the findings of the Australian study, citing Henry’s law for an explanation of how contaminants with low water solubility would evaporate from water and noting that the distillation process would enhance the process by adding heat and reducing pressure (Hawthorne, 2008). No measurements of dioxin concentrations in seawater were collected during the Vietnam conflict, so it is not possible to ascertain the extent to which drinking water on US vessels may have been contaminated through distillation processes. However, it seems likely that vessels with such distillation processes that traveled near land or even at some distance from river deltas would periodically collect water that contained dioxin. Thus, a presumption of exposure of military personnel serving on those vessels is not unreasonable.

In its charge to the original VAO committee, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked the committee to include military personnel who served in inland waterways, offshore of the Republic of Vietnam, and in the airspace above the Republic of Vietnam. A presumption of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used as defoliants applied to each of those groups as well as to those who served on land. In light of the findings of the Australian study regarding potential drinking-water contamination and those serving offshore, the presumption seems well founded.


Pages 564-565:

COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
As part of its charge, the committee was asked to make recommendations concerning the need, if any, for additional scientific studies to resolve uncertainties concerning the health effects of the chemicals of interest sprayed in Vietnam: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 2,4,5- trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and its contaminant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), picloram, and cacodylic acid. This chapter summarizes the committee’s recommendations.

Although great strides have been made over the last several years in understanding the health effects of exposure to the chemicals of interest and in elucidating the mechanisms underlying them, gaps in our knowledge remain. The scope of potential research on the chemicals is wide, and what follows in this chapter is not an exhaustive listing of future research that might have value. There are many additional opportunities for progress in such subjects as toxicology, exposure assessment, the conduct of continuing or additional epidemiologic studies, and systematic and comprehensive integration of existing data that have not been explicitly noted here. It is the committee’s conviction, however, that work needs to be undertaken promptly, particularly to address questions regarding several health outcomes, most urgently tonsil cancer, melanoma, paternally-mediated transgenerational effects, and Parkinson’s disease.

• The current definition of Vietnam service is not supported by existing data.
The evidence that this committee has reviewed makes a definition of Vietnam service limited to those who set foot on Vietnamese soil seem inappropriate. The ongoing series of hearings and appeals in the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Haas v. Nicholson) reflect this controversy. As discussed in Chapter 3, there is little reason to believe that exposure of US military personnel to the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam was limited to those who actually set foot in the Republic of Vietnam. Having reviewed the Australian report (NRCET, 2002) on the fate of TCDD when sea water is distilled to produce drinking water, the committee is convinced that this would provide a feasible route of exposure for personnel in the Blue Water Navy, which might have been supplemented by drift from herbicide spraying.

The epidemiologic evidence itself supports a broader definition of “service in Vietnam” to serve as a surrogate for presumed exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides sprayed in Vietnam. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1990) study of selected cancers among Vietnam veterans found that the risk of the “classic AO cancer” non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was highest and most significant among Blue Water Navy veterans. More recently, the AFHS has demonstrated that TCDD concentrations in Vietnam-era veterans deployed to Southeast Asia, not just the “Vietnam veteran” Ranch Hand subjects, are generally higher than US background concentrations (although notably lower than in Ranch Hand sprayers themselves).

The committee notes that all previous VAO committees evaluating the epidemiologic evidence concerning exposure to the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam and the full spectrum of health outcomes have always considered information from naval Vietnam veterans to pertain to possible Agent Orange exposure. This committee considers that exposure assignment to be appropriate. No new studies considered in this update contained Navy-specific information, but such information has been factored into the evolving conclusions of VAO committees.

Given the available evidence, the committee recommends that members of the Blue Water Navy should not be excluded from the set of Vietnam-era veterans with presumed herbicide exposure.
This ends the citations from the IOM Veterans Agent Orange Update 2009.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2009

IOM Report Backs Blue Water Navy Vets!

FLASH NEWS

The Institute of Medicine today issued its Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008 and it contains some VERY good news.

The report introduces the Australian Study into the mainstream US Government scientific community and also the report done by Commander John Wells, USN [Ret] during the Haas case. By doing so, the IOM clearly states that a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange should be applied to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.

Here, finally, is the science the DVA has been claiming is not science. Indeed, it is the first bit of science of any kind about the Blue Water navy that the DVA will now have at its disposal. And it goes 100% against everything the DVA has been saying about Blue Water Navy Veterans.

We urge you to go to this link and page to pages 46-47 and read what the IOM has to say:

Veterans And Agent Orange Update: 2008 page 46

Much of the honor for this is due to VASVW Member Commander Wells who testified last year before the Institute of Medicine.

More details when they become available.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

PTSD is not caused by society

War has been part of man's culture since he picked up the first rock and threw it at his neighbor. But PTSD has been there longer than that. Watching your family get eaten alive by a saber-toothed tiger would cause it. Seeing the stragglers in your column of family get overtaken by molten lava would cause it.

And I'll bet he had nightmares about it, too.

Do you think there was no "shell shock", or "Battle Fatigue" or PTSD after the Civil War? After the Revolution? Do you think Civilians did not experience it during the French and Indian Wars, or the Indians experience it after what we did to them during our westward expansion? Do you think Napoleon's troops did not experience it after their march home from Moscow -- those that survived?

Do you think that little boy down in Florida doesn't grow up with PTSD after seeing an alligator eat his little sister?

Do you think the young mother who lost her baby in a tornado as it was ripped from her arms doesn't have PTSD?

Do you think the four survivors of a train wreck that killed 150 people don't have PTSD?

The only influence war has on PTSD is the statistically increased occurrences in war that provide the stressors that trigger it.

Culturally, it is our prejudice against persons with any form of mental condition, be it a disease, or a birth defect. In fact, no mental illness, or disease, no abnormalities are caused by the individual in whom the illness or abnormality exists, yet we shun and mistreat, bully and mock, belittle and ostracize those who are retarded, mentally ill, insane, or scarred from a stroke, a brain injury, a long bout with a high fever, or a tumor. Our ignorance is based on old societal fears and the fact that in general we know so little about the brain and the mind and what makes it work, though we are a lot farther down the road than when I was taking psychology courses forty years ago.

[For what it is worth, and this is NOT scientific, I suspect that PTSD is the result when the mind is so overwhelmed with horror that the normal mechanism of coping, forgetfulness, is unable to kick in. I think there are a few in whom PTSD is controllable...perhaps recurrences only happening once or twice a year...you can function like that...but of the rest, I believe that most who have it hide it, either trying to "man up", or ashamed of the perceived weakness, when it is, indeed, not a weakness, but an illness. But there is a stigma attached to any form of "mental condition" because of which most who have PTSD will not come forward about their own problems.]

Mostly, it is ignorance that allows people to treat persons with brain disorders the way we do. How we treat PTSD victims comes from the same root of ignorance in the way we treat Schizophrenics when we call them "Schiz", or say, "He went all schizoid on me!", and the same root as when we refer to the Mentally Retarded as "Tards" or "Morons", or confuse a person who is recovering from a stroke with a drunk, or a retarded person. Ignorance.

War does not cause PTSD, it provides the stressors that do, and they are different for each and every individual affected. Our culture does not cause PTSD. It is not something inflicted by our society.

I will repeat, The only influence war has on PTSD is the statistically increased occurrences in war that provide the stressors that trigger it.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Wives' Letters

[Note: This is a reposted and updated entry that needs to be put up over and over to remind folks of the role played by the wives in all of this struggle.]

They write. They call. They fax. They file form after form. They drive wherever they need to go in order to document, present, appeal, or argue their case. And they are frequently shut out.

No sailor wants to make that last voyage without providing for his widow, and/or his family. One of the ways to do so is to file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Unfortunately, and apparently illegally, the DVA stopped approving claims in 2002 for Navy Veterans who served in the “off shore waters of Vietnam”.

…John was hospitalized three nights ago with what has been diagnosed as pneumonia resulting from multiple myeloma. The doctors aren’t holding out much hope. What can I do? We’re out of money. John’s claim was denied because he did not set foot on the ground…

In many cases, those sailors with pending claims died before their claims were decided. Their claims died with them. Their widows got…absolutely nothing.

In 2002, the DVA modified their procedural manual to stipulate that a veteran filing for Agent Orange Presumptive benefits must provide proof that he actually set foot on the ground in the Republic of Vietnam. The DVA made this change after issuing a “precedential opinion” in 1997 from their own office of General Council. They did all of this on their own, without any instigation from Congress, or the various Veterans Service Organizations. But they also made the manual change without offering it up for public comment first.

…My husband served three tours on Destroyers off the coast of Vietnam between 1965 and 1971. He never set foot on the ground there. In 1998 Bob was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, and a year later with cancer of the prostate. They operated, and he tested clear of the cancer for a while, but in 2005 his PSA suddenly skyrocketed. He went in for tests and they found the cancer was back and it had spread throughout his body. They removed one of his lungs late last year, but by summer the other was full of cancer. He was hospitalized repeatedly. None of the treatments really worked. They sent him home last week, in time for his 60th birthday, with days to live. His claim with the VA died with Bob this morning at 5:17 AM. I have no idea what I will do now…

I receive four to seven of these a week. Every week. Fifty two weeks a year. I read them through my tears, and theirs. God! How could so many sailors have been so blessed with such strong wives!?

How could an agency of the United States Government act in such a crass and inhumane manner? Not only was their action illegally done, it was unjustified and unjustifiable, and we felt confident the court would say that in its decision in the Haas case. It was a cruel and heartless action, done coldly. My first claim was rejected in 2003 with the words, “You did not serve in Vietnam.” I have the medals, and the cruise book, and the envelopes and letters sent home free from the combat zone to prove it.

To be perfectly honest, I pray that people like Anthony Principi, Jim Nicholson, and the author of the precedent that was used to change the manual, May Lou Keener, rot in the lowest level of Hell for all eternity. So grievous were their actions that even that fate may be too good for them.

…he had been treated for heart disease and other problems for about five years, all after being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Yesterday after lunch he went in to take a short nap. When I went to wake him for our afternoon walk, he was gone. He should have gotten VA benefits, but he was denied and never appealed it. The Lord knows we could use the money for his funeral, and to pay off the mortgage on the house. I don’t want to lose this place. It has too many memories of us in it…

They come in emails, and in their words, through our tears, I see theirs. And in their words I see behind their tears an aura of nobility, grace and strength. These are not women to be trifled with, to be shunted aside with barely a glance, or ignored completely.

These women fulfilled a compact with their sailors, and because their sailors fulfilled a compact with their government, and died as a result of that compact, their wives must be compensated, even though their husbands were not.

We strongly urge the citizens of this nation to take up this cause and make it one of their goals, to see that justice is done for these good and strong women – the wives, widows, and daughters of our Blue Water Naval Veterans of the Vietnam War.

What the DVA did in 2002 was not only illegal, but because it was illegal, it was stupid. Because they did not follow due process of the law, they made a clear and unmistakable error in changing their policy without asking for public comment first, as required by law. Any of their actions subsequent to that policy change are therefore illegal if the DVA personnel followed that policy in the changed manual section.

The Courts, or better yet, Congress, which could save the Veterans and their Wive's a lot of unnecessary legal action, should issue a law connecting prior claims denied under these illegal changes. Because the DVA erred, anything that was ruled subsequent to that error based on that error, must be reviewed and overturned and benefits issued retroactive to the date of the claim. That includes any claims that died when the claimant died, any claims that were rejected based on the erroneous policy change, and appeals that were denied based on that change. Everything in those categories should be reconnected and reprocessed back to the date of the original claim, non-severed by any failure to appeal as well. It was the DVA that erred, not the claimants.

The court or Congress, should also rule that all these claims should be processed to the issuance of benefits within 6 months, including retroactive benefits.

…God gave me thirty wonderful years with my sailor, and I treasure every second of those years. Even the cross words that were sometimes exchanged will be sorely missed. When he took that final voyage last spring, the VA had not completed his claim. Now they won’t even answer my letters and calls. I had to put the house up for sale last summer, and am now living in a small apartment downtown so I can get around. But it is a dangerous neighborhood. I’ve been mugged twice, but all they got was a few dollars. They could have asked me for it and I would have given them the money. Ralphie would have given them each a bloody nose for their trouble. Sometimes, when I am trying to make a decision, I think, “what would he have done?” I was a housewife, I get no retirement from Social Security. I have a little bit left from Ralph’s IRA, and from the sale of the house, but that will be gone in a few years. I don’t know what I’ll do then…

We owe these courageous women a debt that goes far beyond mere gratitude. In many cases, we owe them our lives. Not many of us are financially secure. The presence of VA Benefits will go along way toward building that financial security for us to leave behind. Our wives, and children deserve it because we earned it, and they did, too. They care for us in our pain and illness, they comfort us, they haul us around to doctors, clinics, labs, and offices, and in between all that other stuff they write, phone, fax, and email on our behalf.

Gentlemen, Attention on Deck! To the indomitable and courageous wives, widows, sweethearts, and daughters of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, hand salute!

Two!

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Veterans and Political Partisanship Just Don't Mix

Political partisanship in this country has descended to a level reserved for those who insist they are right, even when the facts speak against them. The result is that political debate has become political shouting matches, and the gift of the Internet means that any yahoo with an opinion will voice it.

What is particularly disturbing is the venomous and vituperative tone such opinions have taken on. One envisions an editor or a writer pounding the keyboard, while foaming spittle flies onto the monitor screen. It is not really opinion any more, it is screed.

And both sides are extremely guilty.

Inference and innuendo has now been replaced by outright accusations that result from Internet hearsay. In other words, somebody made a WAG [Wild A**ed Guess] about someone, and sent it whispering down the lane of the Internet.

Albert Einstein wrote, "It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." He is correct. But the active word in play here is "validity". Owners and editors of Internet Sites are not News Reporters [though even that term has become something different these days], or News Editors. They write "opinion pieces" and make them out to be breaking news stories of terrible things done by members of the political opposition...and no argument is tolerated..."it's the truth about those hypocrites! It comes from reliable sources...inside sources!"

Actually the national news media does a fine job of sniffing out the foibles of our elected and appointed officials, thank you, further sliming is wholly unnecessary.

Besides, what is gained by such smearing on the part of the Internet writers? The reputation that they can dig deeper than the media can? To what end? A scandal is a scandal, and no matter what, the other party will get caught doing the same thing! Or worse!

But when this is done by an organization with the best interests of the Veteran supposedly at heart, something has gone horribly wrong.

The late, great American philosopher and humorist Will Rogers once called politics "applesauce." But he also wrote, "The more you read and observe about this politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best." We think Rogers is dead on target. We also believe that when it comes to Veterans neither party stands on high ground. Indeed, both parties treatment of Veterans, and that is treatment by partisans of both parties in Presidential Administrations, Federal Court Appointees, and in Congress, is absolutely abysmal.

We have three Federal Holidays memorializing and Celebrating American Veterans and their accomplishments, yet not one single administration [with varied and few exceptions] has done anything to stop the degrading slide in governmental esteem toward the American Veteran. Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt made the Doughboys of WW I wait 18 years before they got their Veterans Bonus money, a hideously insulting tactic from which the current day "Delay, Deny until they die!" comes from. The Veterans waited fourteen years, marched on Washington DC and were brutalized by Army troops under the Command of General Douglas MacArthur. It took four more years before Franklin Roosevelt was given the opportunity to make things right, and give the men their bonuses. Despite please from his wife Eleanore, he still vetoed the legislation which Congress, then in an election year, overrode! For those keeping score that is three Republican Presidents, one Democratic President, and one Republican General.

Are you starting to get our drift here? On a more modern note, we note that President G. H. W. Bush advanced and signed the Agent Orange Act of 1991, one of the positive exceptions. It did not take a march on Washington to do this, but from the end of the Vietnam War era, to 1991, Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan were in office...three Republicans and one Democrat who over a twenty year period, ignored the Agent Orange issue.

Then in 1993, The Clinton administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs began dismantling the Agent Orange Act of 1991 by declaring, without a shred of scientific evidence, that the Air Force was not eligible for presumptive exposure to herbicides because, hey, they flew over it, and therefore did "...not serve in Vietnam." Clinton, a Democrat, was followed by G. W. Bush, a Republican who implemented a Clinton VA Legal precedent that did the exact same thing to the Navy: "You did not serve IN Vietnam." Bush's successor, Barack Obama has not changed the policies or mindset of the Department of Veterans Affairs one inch to the positive. Indeed, shortly after Obama took office in January two policy clarifications were issued further restricting the Blue Water Navy Veterans from possible benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, and currently that same Obama Department of veterans Affairs is fighting a disinformation war in Congress against HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, which would undo the Clinton, Bush, and Obama changes and restore the benefits that were once paid to those Veterans.

Lacking so far in the exemplars is any discussion of Congress and the Courts. In the case of the Courts, the record is clear that they seldom rule against the government and for the Veterans. An exception is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that for the past few years has been fighting a pro-Veteran battle with limited scope, as defined by Congressional law.

As for Congress, their absence in all of this is deafening. They have sat idly by while the Administrations of both parties, and courts, have abused and misused Veterans laws to the point of an extremely adversarial attitude toward Veterans.

In case anyone missed it, the point here is that party simply does not matter when it comes to Veterans Affairs. What matters is not even whether Democrats or Republicans are in office, but simply who holds the power...that is, which individuals are in the White House, the Speaker's chair, and the floor and caucus leaders in the House and Senate. That is all that matters. Why? Because there is absolutely nothing partisan about treating Veterans the way they should be treated by the Government. And, conversely, there is absolutely nothing partisan in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the US Government currently treats its Veterans. It transcends partisan politics. Party affiliation is, and always has been irrelevant when it comes to Veterans Issues, no matter what your Congressional, Senatorial, or Presidential candidate says.

And if the elected officials of our country are not careful, [and their history shows them to be careless about this] continued mistreatment will cause enlistments to dry up when young people see that Veterans more often than not do not get treated the way they should by the Government. Who then will fight the nation's wars? Draftees? That worked in WW I, and WW II, and in Korea, but it failed miserably in Vietnam...so miserably that the Pentagon went to an all-volunteer Army for the post-Vietnam Wars and actions.

We have said here repeatedly, ”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." Indeed, dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs is likely a cause and/or aggravating factor in Veterans PTSD illnesses. That is not a joke, it is a reality. The veteran faces a "hamster wheel" effect of denials, appeals, remands, denials, appeals and remands, etc. that can take as long as ten or more years to resolve. Imagine, a sick and dying Veteran being forced to go through the same arguments over and over while the DVA plays games with his claim. It is depressing, humiliating, frustrating, enraging, and when it happens repeatedly is a likely stressor for PTSD. And no, this is not an exception; it has become the norm, especially for cases that are not direct combat wounds. There are far too many "anecdotal stories" for the problem to be anecdotal.

The Department of Veterans Affairs mindset is a house built by both parties in a truly long term bi-partisan effort. Eschewing partisanship when talking Veterans Affairs is the honest thing to do, and raises the level of discourse above the level where we are now, which is wholly and totally ineffective. After all, do we not all pledge to leave no one behind? Then why ruin the reputation of an organization with constant partisan smearing and invective?

Do folks really think politicians don't read what the major Veterans websites say?

A friend once told me "The Veterans worst enemy is another Veteran." When we are sidetracked from the larger issues this comes into play. When egos are involved, this comes into play. When partisanship is involved, this comes into play. All Veterans should be focused on the issues, not the parties or even the individual shortcomings of those in office or, especially, those who are out of office.

Don't spit on the door step before you enter or you won't be welcomed.

Finally, a comment about general partisanship: partisan invective may not be intended to destroy a political party, but a consequence could be just that. Then guess what? The result is one party rule. Like German National Socialism in the 1930s to 1945. Like Soviet Communism almost all of the 20th Century, like we see now in Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, and China. That is one party rule. The destroyed party becomes simply, "the opposition," never getting voice in the government, or the press, never having a say in how the nation is governed. Are we really trying to change the President’s title to “Dear One”?

Anyone who favors that is not a Patriotic American. Any Veteran who desires that end shames not only his own service, but the service of all others who have gone before him.

There is no good reason for radical extremism in politics. Zealotry, and that is what it is, is self destructive to its own end. It is long past time to put away the invective and rhetoric and restore a semblance of decency to our national discourse. Let’s start with restoring civil discourse to Veterans affairs and issues. We can accomplish much more that way that is positive for Veterans, and therefore, for the nation.

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 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.