Tuesday, August 17, 2010

While Congress is in recess

It is very important that you contact your Congressional Representatives and US Senators to let them know you are unhappy with the delays in moving the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 [HR 2254, S.1939].

It is important to make direct contact with your Rep or Senator to get this message across. It is an election year. They will want to look strong on Veterans. Tell them this is a chance for them to do just that!

Use the phone. Or better yet, go to their closest office and talk to someone to get your message posted to your Rep or Senator.

There is no time for letters.

There is no time for letters.

And one more time...

There is no time for letters.

You must take action to make direct contact, and you must do it now. If there is a campaign rally near you, go to it and make contact there. Wear your Legion, or VFW cap, and your medals. Make sure you are easily identified as a Veteran, and let them know clearly and politely what they must do to get your vote, and the votes of everyone you know.

Good luck, and good hunting!

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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

VASVW Letter to Akaka and Filner

Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Hon. Bob Filner, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Hon. Steve Buyer, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs

Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner,

I am writing to you today to ask that you conduct whatever legislative hearings and actions that are required and report the Agent Orange Equity Act out of committee as soon as possible. As you must be aware, every day you delay enactment of this bill, hundreds of Vietnam Veterans will die in poverty, and perhaps early since they will have been denied access to necessary medical care.

Further, I suggest the following changes to the language of the bill to minimize cost, and thereby reduce objections to the bill:

1. Remove Johnston Island. Including Johnston Island raises the cost of the bill and changes the nature of the bill from one that restores benefits illegally taken away by the DVA, to one that encourages not just Johnston Island, but dozens of groups from other locations outside the Vietnam Theater of War to seek to add their groups to the bill. As you are aware, I previously submitted to you a second proposed bill, called the Agent Orange Supplemental Act, that would cover all those other groups by creating an entirely new section in Title 38. Why not introduce that bill? Johnston Island would be covered under that bill.

2. Change the "Vietnam Campaign Medal" to the "Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam" [AFEM-VN]. In order to receive the Vietnam Campaign Medal a Veteran would have had to receive either the Vietnam Service Medal or the AFEM-VN, which are interchangeable. By making that change and enacting the bill, you will restore compensation and medical benefits to thousands of Veterans who were eligible under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, and were made ineligible by various illegal policy changes made by the DVA over the period from 1991 to 2002. The bill will then cover the Blue Sky Air Force, the Blue Water Navy, and the Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia: Veterans who served thus did receive either the Vietnam Service Medal or the AFEM-VN. By using this as the qualifier for presumptive exposure to herbicides, you will be adhering to the best advice recommended by the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. His recommendations are even more sound today than they were in 1989 when he presented his report.

3. Add language that would avoid "short claims" due to failure to appeal. Each of the changes made to the policy by the DVA that led to the removal from eligibility for presumptive exposure to herbicides, was done without the DVA's adherence to the Administrative Procedures Act. In other words, eligibility should go retroactive to 1991 as that is when the DVA removed the Veterans of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia from eligibility. [Note: the Air Force Veterans were removed in 1993 and the Blue Water Navy Veterans in 2002.] None of the changes to the policy in the Code of Federal Regulations, or in the DVA's own policy manual [M21-1], were put out for public comment as required under the Administrative Procedures Act. Penalizing the Veteran claimants for not appealing would result in forcing the Veterans to take their matter to court, placing a further unfair burden on the Veterans.

Here is the main part of the bill with the above changes made:

(a) Clarification- Section 1116 of title 38, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in subsections (a)(1) and (f), by striking `a veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975' and inserting `a veteran described in subsection (g)'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:
`(g) A veteran described in this subsection is a veteran who--
`(1) during active military, naval, or air service--
`(A) served in the Republic of Vietnam (including the inland waterways, ports, and harbors of such Republic, the waters offshore of such Republic, and the airspace above such Republic) during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975; or
`(2) received the Vietnam Service Medal, or the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Service in Vietnam.'
(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect as of September 25, 1985.
(c) Retroactivity- All claims under this act will be processed to date of first claim or severance of benefits, regardless of failure to appeal.

Further information on the potential cost of the bill is available for validation at the Defense Manpower Data Center website [ http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/vietnam.pdf ], the VIETNAM CONFLICT - CASUALTY SUMMARY dated May 16, 2008. In stead of the 500,000 plus figures for the Blue Water Navy service off Vietnam [or the DVA's absurdly wild claim of 800,000], the figure now posted by the Department of Defense is 229,000. A generous estimate assuming that all 229,000 are still alive, figured at a generous 15% as a maximum of potential claimants at 34,350. As you know, many are now dead, some have active claims with the DVA and others may not wish to file a claim. I would suggest to you that at the high outside, a reasonable number of potential claimants would be about 10,000-17,000.

Holding the enactment of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 in order to await the outcome of the SECOND Institute of Medicine consideration of the Australian Study on Dioxin and Blue Water Ship Water production does a grave disservice to the Veterans. In 2008, the Institute of Medicine reviewed the evidence in the Australian Study and was impressed enough to contract an independent scientist to "peer review" the study. The result was that the independent study found the Australian Study to be valid and good science. The IOM then passed on in its report a recommendation that Blue Water Navy be granted presumptive exposure to herbicides. There is no need to hold the bill to await the outcome of the SECOND review. We would ask this question: Where are the scientific studies conducted by the DVA that show the Blue Water Navy, the Blue Sky Air Force, or the Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans were not exposed to herbicides? In their absence there can be no justification for delaying the enactment of this bill.  Further delay results in the needless early deaths of thousands of Veterans, who will die without the medical care and without the compensation they have earned the hard way, and at the hands of their own government.

Cost should never be a factor when dealing with Veterans. I realize that part of your job is to find the money for any legislation. I would suggest to you that enactment of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 would be a great stimulus to the economy and would also boost the numbers for health care.

I remain available to work with you, and your staff, and those of other members of the committee to provide further evidence and documentation if necessary. Please feel free to call on me at any time.

I ask that you do the right thing and enact the bill as modified above, without further delay.

Thank you.

Very respectfully yours,

William G. Jeff Davis
Senior Legislative Advocate, Founder and CEO
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.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Court orders Final Rule on 3 new AO Diseases

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted a writ of mandamus requested by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the Non-Commissioned Officers Association and the United Spinal Association/Vets First, petitioners. The mandamus writ was requested to force the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to post the final rule on adding the three new diseases to the list of Agent Orange caused diseases under presumptive exposure. This increases the list of official AO related diseases with the addition of Hairy Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's Disease and Ischemic Heart Disease. The rules must be posted within 30 days of the August 2nd ruling.

This shortens the wait for the Veterans who now will likely see claims being granted for those diseases starting near the end of September as Senator James Webb's sixty day hold on the funding will expire about that time.

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.