Monday, July 26, 2010

A Wife's Letter to Senator Webb

From our good friend in the local VVA, Chuck Geiter, comes this remarkable letter from a remarkable woman.
--------------------------------
July 19, 2010

From: Dixie Miller

To: Senator James Webb
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Ref: September 2010 Veterans Affairs Hearing

Senator Webb,

My name is Dixie Miller. I was born on Guam April 15th, 1948. My father served in the United States Marine Corps for over twenty years and stationed on Guam after The War for “clean-up”. He is now deceased. We moved back when I was three months old and lived on various bases from El Toro, to Alameda in California, and Cherry Point in North Carolina.

Mother always spoke of how the bases on Guam were sprayed every day because of the huge critters that invaded the Quonset hut we lived in on the base. Civilians did the sprayings so there is really no government record to access. However, I am going to get a notarized statement from my mom so I have it in support of those stationed on Guam.

I never really thought much about it until my husband Mike died in 1991 and I started researching why he died as he did; like a poisoned rat.

Mike served in the United States Army as a demolitions engineer, stationed at Pleiku. He was there for the TET phase 1 & phase II. I have his orders from October 1967 until February 1969. He was also at Hamburger Hill with the 4th ID in support. There are many who will attest to this who were there. He came home very ill with not only PTSD, which was not even a medical term at the time, but various other illnesses. Those illnesses included diabetes, hypothyroidism, and neuropathy, anemia, which was probably leukemia, heart disease, ulcers, and ultimately, various cancers. The doctor treating him stated his vomiting and pain as being “just because he is a Vietnam veteran, and all Vietnam veterans are mentally disturbed”. This comment was directed at me in front of my husband and daughter Michelle who was fifteen at the time. I wanted to know how you die such a horrible, painful death from being mentally ill. Hence, I had an autopsy done.

Before writing to you Senator, I researched exactly who you are because I had never heard of you before. I am aware you are a senator from Virginia and a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam. For this, I thank you for your service and congratulate you for your achievements. I also am aware of your education and it is very impressive. At the same time, it is rather confusing as to why you have made some of the comments you have. They are something a politician would make looking for another feather in his hat, so to speak, but not a Vietnam combat veteran. Rather, I should say, not any Vietnam combat veteran I know. Therefore, because of what I now know about you, I have a few questions.

First, referencing comments you made regarding statistics from an online article from http://www.jdnews.com/ dated June 18, 2010. It states you said, “When the law was passed (HR 4899), there were two areas that raised questions…” “… the presumption of exposure for anyone who had been in Vietnam; 2.7 million had an automatic presumption of exposure.”

Actually Senator, according to our governments statistics over six million served during the Vietnam War. (Ref: VetPop 1990) Depending on whom you choose to believe the number that actually set foot “in country” varies. So yes, everyone that set foot in country should be compensated. Actually, everyone who serves this country in war should be compensated without any questions at all.

You also stated “On any given day in Vietnam they say (who are “they”?), about 10 percent of the people (our troops and allies?), were actually out in direct combat.” Where did you get that figure? As a person who has spoken with many regarding statistics within your own government your comments present very inaccurate information. It is also a statement that demeans our veterans and goes against everything our country stands for.

I have researched, spoken to scientists, those who have done independent studies (independent of our government), I even have a map of the sprayings and have a documented conversation from one of our elite Air Force troops who was in the very flawed "Ranch Hand Study", who told me he sprayed our troops directly. He had to make emergency dumps all over the place. That means the waterways and every inch of land, where our troops served was drenched with deadly chemicals. Our troops were inundated with poisons that as one Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk (Hatfield Consultants http://www.hatfieldgroup.com/ ) told me, “may reside in soils for over 100 years”. The chemicals used are resistant to degradation and require sophisticated and expensive technologies to assist in its eradication.

I was also told, winds, water, simply touching anything where the chemicals were sprayed can enter the body through ingestion of dust particles, inhalation, and absorption. Once in the body these chemicals go to the liver, and other fatty organs/tissues and start raising havoc at will. It may start immediately, or it may not happen for years because everyone is a unique being.

The United States government owes everyone that served substantial compensation, free medical care for life, a home, and some dignity, of which you are denying them. You, a Vietnam veteran yourself, are turning your back on your own brothers. Shame on you and shame on our government.

That you are questioning what was made law many years ago and seemingly do not understand or have any idea why, makes many question your reliability and your agenda. Do you have any idea what you are saying and presenting as fact? When you present statistics you should know as educated as you are, you need to back them up. Do you realize how you hurt veterans, their families, and our allies with your words? You are saying that those who go to the Veterans Administration for help for whatever reason are lying. It appears as long as you remain supported with taxes from the American people, and people are willing to die so you can live the life you do, it does not matter to you or any of those who are suppose to be representing us. You are not a representative from what I have read. You are a self-indulging politician who has used his service in Vietnam to mask your need for power and glory.

You and your associates are also denying those who served on Guam their due rights for treatment and compensation. That is criminal. Chemicals have been used on Guam since before WWII. You would know that if you and your colleagues knew what they were doing.

If you really want a fair and true hearing in September, may I suggest you have the scientists appear behind the studies? That would include Dr. Jeanne Stellman (Stellman Study), Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk (retired) with the Hatfield Consultants, Betty Mekdeci from the birth defect organization, veterans such as Paul Sutton, Gary White, Charles Kelly, Diana Dwan Poole and I will give you lots of other names should you ask me for them. The authors of books such as, "Waiting for an Army to Die", victims of the flawed Ranch Hand Study, the veterans who were used AGAIN by their own government, will probably be very happy to share. I will gladly appear to show you my husband’s orders, his DD214, medical reports and autopsy along with my children who got to watch him slowly die. I could go on and on, but you surely know what I am getting at. Just a bunch of politicians and government-funded studies are insufficient to prove anything to the veteran or their families. It is just another slap in the face.

By the way, the reason the Ranch Hand Study and many other government studies are flawed is, for one, they are each a conflict of interest scientifically. When you have a study done for the government, funded by the government, and with employees of the government, the information is invalid in the end. Everyone knows this if they know anything at all about studies. That would be like me paying my mom lots and lots of money, to do a study on me, about me, for me. Now really Senator, that is negligent, fraudulent, and criminal don’t you think? Everyone I know that is aware of the studies done up to this point, feel like I do. You really cannot fool us. We are not uneducated, brainless imbeciles as you may like to think and we are all very aware of what a politician does for a living off our tax dollars.

I was going to send you supporting documentation for every piece of data I have. However, you, a senator and a Vietnam veteran should already know it and have it. You certainly have access to it just as I do because it is readily available over the Internet and in books.

Also Senator you are married to a Vietnamese woman, right? Do you support the supposedly thousands of Vietnamese who have suffered as they say from the chemicals used during the war with not one scientific study in support of them individually? I know about the land because of the studies done by Hatfield Consultants and Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk. How much have you donated in support of the Vietnamese along with other Vietnam veterans?

I am hoping to hear directly from you with a response Senator. Please either write me directly or respond via email, which I prefer at msdixipeach@yahoo.com. I want to be able to share your response with everyone.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

I remain, respectful at this point.

Dixie Miller

Copy: President Obama
Vice President Biden
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Senator Richard Burr
Congressman Bob Filner
Congressman Steve Buyer
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Representative Ed Royce
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk
Betty Mekdeci
Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman
Paul Sutton
Charles Kelley
Diana Dwan Poole
-------------------------------------------

Thank you Dixie, for your courage and your eloquence. We cannot wait to see Senator Webb’s response.

Readers, what have we said on these pages about the wives? This is but another example.

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 Obama 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 Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dems Abandon Vets to Die in Poverty

Well, it seems some prominent Democrats have decided to shaft the Veterans of the Vietnam War.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech in Vietnam yesterday that pointed toward the US government providing monetary relief to the Vietnamese government to aid the generations of Vietnamese who have been and still are being poisoned by the dioxin the US so prodigiously sprayed and dumped all over the countryside, the inland waterways and the coastal waters of then South Vietnam.

So, here we are with a bunch of Veterans of the Vietnam War, those who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, those that flew the missions, both combat and support, in and out of South Vietnam and Thailand, and those who served in Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine ships off the coast of Vietnam, and Veterans who served on land in Vietnam, and now are suffering from certain types of Leukemia, Parkinson' Disease and ischemic Heart Disease. All of those Veterans are forced to go begging while the Government, from the White House to Congress, turns a deaf ear to the real numbers, the real costs, and the real death rates of these men and women who went to war for their country.

We certainly do not begrudge the aid to the Vietnamese, but let us take care of our own Veterans, and not allow them to die without while giving aid to the Vietnamese.

Now we have word that Daniel Akaka, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Jim Webb, the Senator from Virginia who also serves on the Senate Committee, are in lockstep with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to not only delay benefits for the Agent Orange exposed Veterans who have the three new diseases [Hairy Cell Leukemia, Parkinsons Disease, and Ischemic Heart Disease] for further study [they were added by the Secretary of the DVA at the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine committee that examines recent scientific work to determine if benefits should be expanded to include additional classes of Veterans and or additional diseases under the Agent Orange Act of 1991] but to start an examination into the method of determining exposure to the Dioxin based herbicide.

Jim Webb is a graduate of the Naval Academy, a decorated Marine officer, Veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Secretary of the Navy, is of the opinion that Agent Orange exposure was only made directly, and only a small percentage of even those in country were exposed. The good Senator from Virginia would rather accept the Department of Veterans Affairs slanted, tainted, and wholly ignorant data, estimates, and financial projections than the scientific evidence that has been collected over the past half century about how Dioxin acts once it is turned loose in the environment. The Senator's staff has no interest in even hearing about, let alone accepting the work of the Institute of Medicine Committee [IOM]. One senior staffer in Webb's office even refused to accept the fact that the IOM had recommended that the DVA add the Blue Water Navy Veterans to the presumptive eligibility of exposure to Agent Orange. Claiming the IOM does not recommend, the staffer refused to look at the wording of the IOM recommendation on paper, shoving it into the middle of a stack of other documents without even a glance.

Perhaps Webb is campaigning for the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs after Senator Akaka retires, or perhaps he is seeking the Secretaryship of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but what Webb is actually doing, and there are no other words for it, is leaving men behind. He is sentencing men to early death without proper medical care, without the comfort of disability benefits, without any financial legacy to leave their survivors.

Akaka is a Veteran of WW II. He has allowed Webb to call the shots on the Agent Orange issue, and in so doing, he too is leaving men behind, something all members of the military, past, present and future, vow not to allow.

Between them, Webb and Akaka are sentencing thousands of Veterans to an early grave, and by their decisions having a deleterious effect on future enlistments. What young person would enlist knowing that chances are, if he is injured or develops a disease that is service connected, he will never see a DVA doctors, or a penny of benefit money?

The actions of Webb and Akaka are despicably anti-Veteran, specifically, anti-Vietnam Veteran.

And now we know who is holding up the advancement of S.1939, the Agent Orange Equity Act in the Senate.

In the House, almost sixty percent of the members have signed on as cosponsors to HR 2254. Yet the bill languishes in the subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

And there, apparently Chairman John Hall of NY and House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner of California have decided to let it sit until it dies at the end of the 111th Congress in December.

How much would you wager that these politicians will campaign this fall as Pro-Veteran? Oh yes, they do a lot for Veterans. But they also allow thousands of Veterans to die without benefits when they should be receiving those benefits. Now thousands more will meet the same fate.

This point has been made to these people in Congress. They do not care. You tell them and their eyes glaze over. They mouth vague promises and then forget them the moment you leave their office.

Worst of all is the smugness of the opinionated Jim Webb. Marines seem to have the idea they are the only ones to fight, and the only ones to die. They aren't. But Webb and his staff of Marine cronies have locked everyone else out, and are on their way to stripping benefits from those who served in Vietnam on the ground, but not in combat. That is where he is heading.

The indifference of Congress and the fact that the Obama administration is trying to send money to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange while US Veterans go without those benefits is nothing short of an outrage.

Apparently the coming-home-indignities and disrespect suffered by those who came back from the fighting in Vietnam are about to be revisited upon those same Veterans, this time however, not by the populace, but by the government of the United States.

We urge all Veterans to keep this in mind when next they enter a polling place to vote for members of Congress, the Senate and President of the United States. We pray the people of this country elect people to those posts who are pro-Veteran, completely pro-Veteran, else we finally find ourselves no longer the Beacon of Light unto the World.

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 Obama 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 Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Wives

[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, Mary 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 © 2005-2010 VNVets Blog -- Now in our Sixth Year of Service toVeterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Unintended Consequesces

There comes a time when the gloves must come off. Ordinarily, we eschew political partisanship in our quest to see the Agent Orange Act of 2009 passed in this session of Congress. But a situation has arisen that defies all common sense and sensibilities.

The bill, HR 2254 in the House, has over 250 cosponsors. They come from both sides of the aisle.

In the Senate, S.1939 has 19 cosponsors, 18 now with the death of the Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.

All of the cosponsors in the Senate are Democrats.

Where are the Republicans?

We have visited the offices of more than a few prominent Republican Senators and have received promises of support for the bill. But no cosponsors.

We have attempted to meet with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Minority Leader, to prevail upon his leadership to help get this bill passed. Our attempts are rebuffed with the comment that the Senator is too busy.

Too busy to meet with and help Veterans?

Too busy doing what, you might ask? Certainly not working on legislation. Planning filibusters perhaps? Looking for other ways to tighten the blockade in the Senate, perhaps?

Too busy to think for one moment of the unintended consequences of politics too partisan.

Senator McConnell, while playing political games in the Senate, is allowing Veterans to die in poverty, and without proper treatment, simply to maintain an ironbound blockade on legislation.

Blue Water Navy Veterans from the Vietnam War are dying at a rate of almost 300 per day, dying without benefits from the VA after the VA arbitrarily stopped those benefits in 2002 -- after paying them for 11 years under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. That is a Vietnam Veteran dying every 5 minutes. When he dies, his claim dies. His survivor will get nothing but a flag and $250 toward a headstone. No widow's pension.

But Senator McConnell has apparently determined that blockading the Senate so no Democratic legislation passes is more important than a bunch of dying Veterans with no time left.

Well, God Bless you Senator McConnell, for having that kind of wisdom, for it surely escapes us. 26 years in the Senate must have given you a special insight into the affairs of man to make that kind of life and death judgment.

Or, maybe, it was that year in the National Guard in 1967 when most of us dying Veterans were getting poisoned in Vietnam, and you never got to leave your home state of Kentucky.

Either way, were I a Kentucky voter I'd vote to cancel your ticket to DC just as soon as possible.

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 Obama 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 Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Legion Magazine Features Blue Water Battle

We would like to take this opportunity to urge you to read an article online. This month's Legion Magazine, the voice of the American Legion, has a cover story on the Blue Water Navy fight. Several members of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW] were interviewed for this article. Here is the link.

Blue Water Battle

VASVW is very appreciative of the fine work done by researcher/author Ken Olsen, and Editor Jeff Stoffer of the American Legion Magazine.

VASVW remains committed to the passage of HR 2254/S1939, which would restore benefits illegally removed from Vietnam Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and who served offshore in the Blue Water Navy. We believe that there is more than sufficient scientific evidence to support the fact of Blue Water Navy exposure, and there is sufficient documentation from the Department of Defense and personal testimony to show exposure in T-L-C Veterans, including the Air Force Flight Squadrons that rotated through the air bases there.

Modifying the qualifying criteria to only require receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal, or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam, and a qualifying AO Disease is the desired goal. The path to claim approval would be shortened dramatically, and in the long run, would ease the last days of a dying breed of American Veterans, ensure their legacy and care for their survivors.

For information about VASVW visit the VASVW Website at http://www.vasvw.org/.

To join VASVW visit:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VASVW/.

Membership is free. Come and see all the good things we are doing!

The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War, Inc. Service to the Nation decades ago, now back in action! "Fortitudine vincimus!" - By endurance we conquer!

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 Obama 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 Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Obtaining and gathering Records to Support VA or SSDI Claims [Repost]

[Repost]
We are going to post a series of tips here to help Blue Water Veterans with their claims. The more information the Veteran can get for himself, the greater the control over his claim. That applies to those who are filing their own claims and to those using the services of a Veterans Service Officer.

It is important that all of your records be available to the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA or VA], or the Social Security Administration [SSA] when you are filing a claim with either body. Even if you are working with a Veterans Service Officer, you should have copies of all the documents that are being submitted. Such documents include, but are not limited to:
  1. Your complete medical records
  2. Your complete service record
  3. Your ship’s deck logs
We will tell you where to obtain these records, and why they are important.

First, however, here are some steps to take in the process of obtaining official documents or copies of official documents. Please note that these steps are common sense steps to help you stay organized throughout the process of your claim, and to make things easier for whoever is processing your claim. You never know when someone is grateful for you making it easy for them may be the difference in how he approaches the decision making process. If your case is close, it might make the difference. Also note that some of these steps may cost you a few dollars at a time, some more so, but in the long run may be worth much more in return.
Whatever official documents or certified copies of such you obtain, the first thing you should do is arrange a safe, fireproof location to store them.

Stop in at your local Staples, or office supply store, and get a couple of self-inking stamps made up. One should have your name, and address. A second should have your Name and VA Claim number. A third one is for Social Security and it should have your Name and Social Security number. Maximum cost for this should be under $30.

Next, either make or have 2 sets of copies made of all the official documents and certified copies. If you own a multipurpose printer [printer, copier, scanner, fax], you are in very good shape. The price of these has come down and their quality has gone up. Even if you have only a regular printer you can save a lot of time and aggravation. Count the number of copies you need to have made. Count out an equal number of blank pages and run them through the printer, placing your Name, Address, and VA Claim Number in the center of the page. [For copies for Social Security, use your Social Security number rather than your VA Claim Number.] Also, place the following words near your personal information: “Page ____ of _____ pages.” When the copying is done, you should serially number all those pages to help you, and anyone else working with the set of documents keep them in order. It also helps if one gets mislaid. You would then know which one must be replaced and can send it to whoever lost it. That is why you need to keep a second, working copy of your documents. Create separate file folders for them.

On the front of those pages, after they are printed, use your self-inking stamps to mark your name and VA Claim Number [or name and Social Security Number for SSA Applications], somewhere on the page where it does not interfere with what is on the page. Usually there is room at the bottom for this info. Stamp it on each and every page.

To the documents:

1. Medical Records:
Make sure that all your physicians, specialists and other health care workers [including hospitals…tell them to send a copy of all your records from your hospitalization to your family physician] send copies of any and all lab reports, and records of your visits and treatment plans, plus any prescribing information to your family physician. If you do this studiously, and you should insist upon it, then all of your pertinent medical records will be in one place: in the office of your family physician. When it comes time to gather all your current medical records, you only need to go to one place to obtain copies. Most physicians, when told it is for the VA or the SSA will cut you a break and either not charge you, or reduce the charge for copying. Most specialist do send a letter to your family physician and include copies of all test results and x-rays.

Make sure if you change physicians, you get a copy of all your medical records from the physician you are leaving and take them to the new physician and allow them to copy for their records. That gives them the records, and you then have a copy for all your records up to that date.

2. Your complete Personnel Record:
Most of the time, the VA and the SSA deal only with your DD-214 [Page 4 of the Navy Personnel File]. This usually has all the pertinent information, unless you served in more than one duty station or aboard more than one ship. It generally will only have your last duty station or ship and whatever personnel information to be recorded that was generated during that stay. This is important to understand especially if you were a Reservist, as well. Some reservists had several ActDuTra [active duty for training] periods before going on active duty, and may have had more after they came home from their two, three, or four year hitch on Active Duty. In such cases, this information may not show up on your DD-214.

Additionally, if you were TAD anywhere, having the rest of your personnel file should prove that, and that might be exactly the proof you need to prove “feet on the ground”, or a specific exposure.

To request your records, you should go to the following website:

http://www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html

This site will allow you to go to the National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] application for Military Personnel Records. Follow the directions carefully. This process in the past has taken over a year before the records arrived, so start now and be patient.

3. Your ship’s Deck Log:
If your personnel record does not show proof of you being “foot on the ground” or in a place where you were exposed to Agent Orange, your ship’s Deck Log might very well be able to do so. Also, it would be additional documentary evidence in support of your claim as your Personnel Record will show you stationed aboard during a period the Deck Log makes reference to a working party ashore, or some such.

For most Blue Water Vietnam Veterans, ships Deck Logs are to be found at the Modern Military Branch of the National Archives, located just off the Washington Beltway in College Park, Maryland. It is a fascinating facility to visit, and you are encouraged to do so. If you do, go early and get your request in as soon as you get there, as it takes a while to pull the physical records from the archives. Logs from 1941 through those that are 30 years old or older are in the Modern Military Branch, National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park MD 20740-6001 [telephone (301) 837-3510]. Be prepared for heavy security, and when you sign in you must answer some questions on a computer, sign some pledges dealing with the handling of documents, and get a photo ID good for one year. Repeat visits are somewhat easier to accomplish.

These are the smooth copied Deck Logs hand written by a revolving set of Officers on board the ship, copied weekly from the rough daily log. They are official documents and are signed by the ship’s Captain and countersigned by the XO.

You may not need an entire period, but just certain dates. If you have a Cruise Book, that can sometimes help you pin point the dates.

The cheapest route to take is to just get copies made of specific dates. These are on oversized [10x15 inch] paper [the Navy went to 8 ½ x 11 log books after we all got out!], so special copiers are set up to deal with the size. But the copiers are sometimes balky.

We copied one month’s worth of log entries, about 50 over-sized pages as most entries ran over onto the back of the page. Because we had waited so long for the box to come up with the log entries, and then the copier we were using was constantly changing the settings, we decided to contract the NARA staff to copy and ship me the rest. It came to about $230 for an additional eight months.

We recommend the use of a professional researcher to go in and dig out the specific dates you need, get them copied and sent to you. Cost is a factor as the less specific you are in telling the researcher what to look for, the more time it will take. Our experiences with Tim Frank at Military Research Associates have been nothing but superb. Here is a link:

http://www.militaryresearchassociates.com/index.html

Here is what is contained in the deck logs according to Navy Regulations:
  • Absentees
  • Accidents [material]
  • Accidents/Injuries [personnel]
  • Actions [combat]
  • Appearances of Sea/Atmosphere/Unusual Objects
  • Arrests/Suspensions
  • Arrival/Departure of Commanding Officer
  • Bearings [navigational]
  • Cable/Anchor Chain Strain
  • Collisions/Groundings
  • Courts-Martial/Captain's Masts
  • Deaths
  • Honors/Ceremonies/Visits
  • Incidents at Sea
  • Inspections
  • Meteorological Phenomena
  • Movement Orders
  • Movements [getting underway; course, speed changes; mooring, anchoring]
  • Passengers
  • Prisoners [crew members captured by hostile forces]
  • Propulsion Plant Status changes
  • Receipts and Transfers [of Crew Members]
  • Ship's Behavior [under different weather/sea conditions]
  • Sightings [other ships; landfall; dangers to navigation]
  • Soundings [depth of water]
  • Speed Changes
  • Tactical Formation
  • Time of Evolutions/Exercises/Other Services Performed
This information can prove invaluable in supporting your claim. If you cannot go to this incredible facility you can probably call and get a researcher to collect the data for you, but that might be more expensive.

The facility is on its own campus, has good parking, and beautiful grounds. Inside in addition to the records and archives are a small book-gift shop, a small snack shop, and a large, well appointed cafeteria. Security is very tight, and you are not allowed to take anything onto the floors with you. There are rental lockers in the basement for handbags, coats, pens, pads, and other research tools. There is plenty of scratch paper and pencils around on the research floors. The check-in process takes about 40-60 minutes before you even get to the research floor.
Note: any Deck logs that are less than 30 years of age are in the custody of the Ships History Deck Logs Section, Naval Historical Center, Building 57, 805 Kidder Breese Street SE, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060. All inquiries concerning research access to logs that are less than 30 years old should be sent to the Ships History Deck Logs Section.

Logs that are less than 30 years old are held in either paper or microfiche form, stored in the Washington National Records Center, 4205 Suitland Road, Suitland MD 20746. Logs from 1979 through February 1993 are on microfiche in the Ships History Deck Logs Section. Logs from 1990 through 1993 are partly on microfiche in the Deck Logs Section, partly on paper at the Records Center. All logs from March 1993 are on paper and stored at the Records Center. The logs that are classified must be sent to the proper authorities for declassification review before they can be researched or copied.

One other thing: If for some reason the above does not contain specific enough information to satisfy either the VA, or SSA, or both, and your claim involves combat action, you may need one other resource: The Navy Historical Society mentioned above also stores all ships’/units’ action reports, which were required after every engagement. That might be another source for validation of your claim, as it is usually more specific than the deck logs.

There you have it. IF you are doing your own claim [probably online] via VONAPP or on the Social Security website, you will be required to provide verification of your claim. The above documents are, in most cases, all you will need. We packed ours up into several small boxes [about a ream of paper in each] and shipped them to the VA with our claim number on the outside of the boxes. We also shipped them return receipt requested. That proved they got to where they were intended, and showed us the date when they arrived.

If you are ill and can no longer work, you should apply for Social Security Disability in addition to your VA claim. It too can be a long and ugly process, but in the end, if you go to a hearing, things will work out. You must have an attorney for the appeal to Social Security and the attorney is paid from your lump sum if you win, at 25% up to a maximum of $6,000. Our appeal took almost 18 months from initial rejection to the hearing. Nevertheless, when that lump sum comes in, it is a huge load off your mind, as is the monthly income.

The SSA almost automatically denies about ¾ of all claims up front [ours was denied before we even finished submitting our paperwork!] forcing the engagement of an attorney and the paying of a fee out of your lump sum. If you lose your appeal with Social Security, there is nothing owed to the attorney. In other words, the SSA is using private attorneys that you must hire to cut down on fraudulent claims, and forcing the claimant to pay for it. Something is very wrong with that.

Good luck, endure, and keep the faith.

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 Obama 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

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