Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At War with the DVA: Right and Wrong

My friend says, "With the DVA, it's about right and wrong, and they are just wrong...on so many things they do, and don't do." She is absolutely correct.

We would add that Congress is frequently in the same boat. At least their intent is good...sometimes.

Representative Linda Sanchez [CA-39] has introduced a resolution on the floor of the House to create a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. The intent, of course, is to honor all Vietnam Veterans. And there is where we come to the sticking point.

It used to be that if you received the Vietnam Service Medal, then you were a "Vietnam Veteran." Now, however, we who served on ships afloat in the South China Sea and Tonkin Gulf, along with Air Force personnel who overflew the Republic of South Vietnam on many different types of missions, nearly all combat, or combat support, and those who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, despite our Medal awards, have essentially been reclassifed by the Department of Veterans Affairs as "Vietnam Era Veterans."

If Vietnam Veterans allow this day to go into effect, tens of thousands of us who have been told our fight in the Vietnam War doesn't count will not be so honored because the DVA says we are NOT "Vietnam Veterans", but rather "Vietnam Era Veterans." Representative Sanchez and the 63 members of Congress who have co-sponsored her resolution [HRes 234] intend that we all be included. But Congress is too complicit in allowing 18 years to pass with the DVA hijacking the Agent Orange Act of 1991 without lifting a finger to stop them. So much for Congressional oversight.

We who are in limbo, however, feel differently. We have yet to be welcomed home. Our treatment at the hands of the DVA has been maliciously reprehensible, and probably criminally malfeasant and negligent. An oblivious Congress has allowed the DVA to hijack the Agent Orange Act of 1991 right from the start, 18 years ago. They have hijacked it, not with science, for there is no science to back what they have done, but with legalese. They have used legal mumbo-jumbo to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Vietnam Veterans from the benefits that Congress intended for them, and in so doing, moved them from the category of "Vietnam Veterans," to the category of "Vietnam Era Veterans".

Consider, Blue Water Sailors have been denied their Agent Orange Benefits with the words, "You did not serve in Vietnam." That phrase means we are not "Vietnam Veterans". It means we are Vietnam Era Veterans, just the same as any Army guy who spent the war years in Germany, or Air Force guy who spent the war years in Spain, or the Navy guys who were on Atlantic Fleet ships that were never deployed to Vietnam.

We were there. Many of us were on ships that provide the Army, Marines, Air Force, and our allies in the South Vietnamese military with gunfire support from just off the beaches of Vietnam. Others served on ships that launched sortie after sortie of bombing and strafing missions over both North and South Vietnam.

But despite evidence to the contrary, the Department of Veterans Affairs ASSERTS that Agent Orange stopped at the beach, and never went any farther, and never drifted through the skies, or if it did, it never crossed the coastline. Such "science" boggles the mind.

The members of VASVW have agreed to submit to their respective Congressional Representatives, the following resolution:

Whereas the government of the United States has declared through the Department of Veterans Affairs, that Veterans who served only in the waters off shore, the airspace above, and in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War are NOT Vietnam Veterans, but Vietnam Era Veterans, and

Wheras such discrimination includes true heroes such as Senator John S. McCain, and the hundreds of thousands of Veterans who volunteered for Vietnam Service, and

Wheras such discrimination is done in the face of the fact that all three of the groups involved were involved in combat operations, and were awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, not the Vietnam Era Service Medal, and

Whereas such Veterans are accorded less than War Veteran status by dint of these discriminatory actions, and

Whereas such Veterans then have been determined not worthy of the Welcome Home for Vietnam Veterans, and

Whereas such shameful treatment by the Government of the United States is contrary to all the historical records and true facts, and

Whereas the United States Congress has offered a resolution establishing a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,

Be it resolved that we Veterans and members of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War refuse to be so honored, and ask that all Vietnam Veterans refuse such honors, and that no welcome home is acceptable until such time as ALL true Vietnam Veterans are fully restored with their honor and their legacy, and their Veterans Rights and Benefits.
Congress wants us to feel welcome? Sorry, no can do.

We ask that all of you reach out to your Representative, especially if they are on the co-sponsor list below and get a copy of our resolution above into their hands.

Here is the list of current co-sponsors of Representive Sanchez's HRes234.

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez [D-TX]
Rep. Gwen Moore [D-WI]
Del. Madeleine Bordallo [D-GU]
Rep. Bob Filner [D-CA]
Rep. Timothy Bishop [D-NY]
Rep. David Loebsack [D-IA]
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R-WA]
Rep. Ben Chandler [D-KY]
Rep. Joe Courtney [D-CT]
Rep. Joe Donnelly [D-IN]
Rep. Melissa Bean [D-IL]
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA]
Rep. Donna Edwards [D-MD]
Rep. Barton Gordon [D-TN]
Rep. James McGovern [D-MA]
Rep. Betty McCollum [D-MN]
Rep. Raul Grijalva [D-AZ]
Rep. Barney Frank [D-MA]
Rep. Yvette Clarke [D-NY]
Rep. Tammy Baldwin [D-WI]
Rep. Tim Holden [D-PA]
Rep. Phil Hare [D-IL]
Rep. Dennis Moore [D-KS]
Rep. Michael Arcuri [D-NY]
Rep. Christopher Carney [D-PA]
Rep. Maurice Hinchey [D-NY]
Rep. Heath Shuler [D-NC]
Rep. Lincoln Davis [D-TN]
Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D-OH]
Rep. Russ Carnahan [D-MO]
Rep. Mazie Hirono [D-HI]
Rep. Dennis Cardoza [D-CA]
Rep. Jerry Moran [R-KS]
Rep. Jay Inslee [D-WA]
Del. Gregorio Sablan [I-MP]
Rep. Michael Capuano [D-MA]
Rep. Joe Baca [D-CA]
Rep. Candice Miller [R-MI]
Rep. Adam Schiff [D-CA]
Rep. Donald Young [R-AK]
Rep. Betty Sutton [D-OH]
Rep. John Sarbanes [D-MD]
Rep. Harry Teague [D-NM]
Rep. Martin Heinrich [D-NM]
Rep. Bart Stupak [D-MI]
Rep. Diane Watson [D-CA]
Rep. John Adler [D-NJ]
Rep. Brian Higgins [D-NY]
Rep. Robert Brady [D-PA]
Rep. James Moran [D-VA]
Rep. Eddie Johnson [D-TX]
Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD]
Rep. Leonard Boswell [D-IA]
Rep. Ben Luján [D-NM]
Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN]
Rep. Charles Gonzalez [D-TX]
Rep. Steve Scalise [R-LA]
Rep. Bruce Braley [D-IA]
Rep. Mike Ross [D-AR]
Rep. James McDermott [D-WA]
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez [D-IL]
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords [D-AZ]
Rep. Frank Wolf [R-VA]
If Congress wants to welcome us home, let them restore our benefits and take steps to keep the DVA from doing the same to our latest Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leave no one behind.

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.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time for an Unconventional Fight

Although they will never admit it, last spring's campaign to send our Vietnam Service Medals back to the White House, the Senate and the House was a success. It was what prompted Filner to introduce the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009. We all know that it subsequently got loaded down by other Veterans groups and failed to move out of committee last session. The bill died under its own weight.

Now we are three months late in the new bill that was promised.

We now ask ourselves, who has been missing from this fight? Not the FRA, which has been actively with us every step of the way, and not the V.V.A., which has also been directly involved with the legislative process to restore our benefits.

But outside of financial support for the Haas case, and a few resolutions on our behalf at their annual conventions, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been noticeably absent.

That said, we need to hammer the VFW and the American Legion for never applying enough pressure by their legislative staff, and their Sr. Officers to get Filner and Akaka to pass the legislation.

Beyond funding the Haas Case, which I question would EVER have been a precedent since Haas was claiming direct exposure, the VFW and the Legion have done nothing, zilch, zero.

Why would you remain with a Veterans Organization that doesn't support you?

I'm sorry, I love the VFW. It is the first VSO I ever joined. A BT Chief came around the ship within hours of our first crossing into the Combat Zone and signed us up for $5 a pop in the Fall River, Mass. VFW Post. When I moved to my present location I went into the local VFW Post and fell in love with it. The people made me feel welcome without knowing a thing about me. I still feel that way even though they know me now. :)

I joined the American Legion when I got home, my father's post, and was elected as the youngest Jr. Vice Commander ever in my state. It didn't last, as I attended the meetings long enough to see they spent 10 minutes with the bar closed, raced through the meeting, and then opened the bar again, all without leaving their seats at the bar and the poker tables.

Great guys, lots of fun, but...

Now here we are 43 years later and what has either done for me? That may be short sighted, but as far as I can tell, they've concentrated on the WW I, WW II, and Korean war Vets, and skipped us entirely. I don't begrudge those Vets their organizational services, but would have liked to have been under that same umbrella. I never felt it was there for us.

Face it. we fought a war during which a minority of folks poisoned our legacy at home while the Government poisoned us in theater.

Two Vietnam Vets who served in the Navy have run for President, one a phony hero, the other legitimately a hero, and both were soundly defeated. There is a message in that. The people have never forgotten or forgiven us for the sins that were falsely charged to our accounts.

If we want that legacy, if we want those benefits, we must engage in unconventional warfare.

I am sending my VFW and American Legion Life Membership Cards back to their respective national HQ and renouncing my membership in both organizations. I am sending this statement with it:

Dear National Commander of the American Legion,

I am returning and renouncing my life membership in the American Legion to protest the extremely dissatisfying lack of public and lobbying pressure on Congress to restore presumptive Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water Navy, Blue Sky Air Force, and Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans of the Vietnam War. Legislation a decade or more ago should have been enacted and would have corrected the path on which the DVA was embarked to deprive more and more Vietnam Veterans of their legacy and their rightful benefits. This inaction is disgraceful in a national Veterans Service Organization of the stature of the American Legion.

Merely mouthing words at a table in front of the Congressional Committees on Veterans Affairs, and issuing a resolution at a national convention is tantamount to lip service toward the hundreds of thousands of remaining Vietnam Veterans. Instead, your inaction has led to a whole class of Veterans being reclassified as Vietnam Era Veterans, no longer Vietnam Veterans, and the deprivation of rightful benefits.

It is to the utter shame of the American Legion that your inaction has led to the early deaths of far too many Vietnam Veterans, and the deprivation of benefits for tens of thousands of widows and survivors who will now never see a penny from the DVA.

American Legion, you have left us behind.

Sincerely,

Life Member # xxxxxxxxxx
I will of course substitute Veterans of Foreign Wars for American Legion with my second letter.

I will also remain a member of the Home Association of both of my local posts. It is not their fault that the National Officers have failed us.

I will be mailing these out on Monday.

I'm tired of waiting around and doing nothing while Congress fiddles with Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran resolutions [HRes 234] that do not include us instead of passing the legislation we need now!

Anyone care to join me in this?

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, April 07, 2009

Welcome VASVW.org

We would like to introduce our readers to the new VASVW.org website, located at http://www.vasvw.org/. The site was put up by our great webmaster, Tom, and the current membership of VASVW is highly pleased with his efforts. It is first rate: Bravo Zulu, Tom!

On the website, among other things, you will see current news about Veterans and Blue Water Veterans issues, memorials to our members killed by friendly fire, links to Blue Water Navy ship's sites, and to organizations that may be of assistance to Veterans filing claims for benefits from the DVA.

Also there is a page for joining VASVW.org.

We suggest that you take a look at the VASVW.org website. Look around, you'll like what you see.

We also would like to issue an invitation to you to join the VASVW. Here is our mission statement:

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

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

We believe in fairness, openness, and the inclusion of all in decision-making. Each member shall have full say, and each member shall have available full knowledge of the issues at hand. Each member is eligible for positions in leadership. Widows, survivors, and Veterans Advocates are welcome as members.

Membership is free.

Membership is free. Membership will always be free. We are not about money. We don't even have a treasurer. We held elections early last fall and those folks will be up for reelection in about six months. We are about providing mutual support to one another, spreading accurate information, and keeping each other informed as to the best practices to use when pursuing a claim with the DVA.

From personal experience we can promise you that the VASVW members are among the finest folks in the world. Won't you join us?

Click on the large orange logo on the left sidebar and join our group on Yahoo.

The VASVW is now a 501.(c)(3) registered non-profit corporation.

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.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Go Get that Congressional Support!

Congress is in its Easter Recess [no separation of Church and State there, eh?], so here is a two week window to get to your Representative and your Senators and get their agreement to cosponsor the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009!

Hit them at their offices, go see them where they are scheduled to speak! Talk to their staffers and find out how to get to them, and get an appointment. It only takes about 5-10 minutes out of their schedule to get their support.

You have until April 21st when they return to work, though they are due back on the 20th. Imagine your Senator after returning to DC from a meeting with you. On the 20th he does catch-up work in his office, and schedules a few golf outings with lobbyists. But one of the first things he does is consult with his Chief of Staff and tell him to be on the lookout for the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, so he can cosponsor.

That is the kind of effective work we are looking for from all of you. That, and spreading the word as much as poossible, to family, and friends, so that they may do the same work you are on behalf of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009.

Turn to, Sailors!

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.