Monday, July 25, 2011

A Veteran's Worst Enemy...Part Two

We don’t usually go public with things like this, but one of my comments raised the ire of some folks in one of the national Veterans Service Organizations, sparking some inquiries, and a slam by email. So, for once, we will offer this explanation of our comment. Please bear with us.

Most Veterans belong to one or more of the national Veterans Service Organizations, such as the American Legion, with over 3 million members, the Veterans of Foreign Wars with almost a million and a half members, and others such as the Fleet Reserve Association, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Modern Warfare, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Veterans have come to rely on these organizations for many reasons, including providing Service Officers to help with filing claims at the VA, and operating local Chapters or Posts, and the social clubs that usually go with them. Veterans also rely on these organizations as their voice in Washington -- not just their voice, but their eyes and ears as well, to keep an eye peeled on Congress, the President and his Cabinet, and even the Courts for decisions and actions that would impact Veterans. It is an enormous and daunting task. And Veterans should be grateful for these fine organizations, and the work they do on their behalf.

Veterans Service Organizations generally have an "umbrella" spread over the particular group of Veterans they serve. Obviously, the largest is the American Legion, which serves ALL Veterans. The VFW serves those who served overseas in combat or combat support roles, in combat theaters or areas supporting combat operations. Smaller segments of the Veteran population are served by some of the other groups, like the Fleet Reserve Association which serves Naval Personnel, and the VVA, which serves the Vietnam Veterans.

Last week Senator Coburn, R-OK, introduced an amendment to the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Act, which sets up funding for 2012. The Amendment would have changed how Agent Orange claims were dealt with by the DVA, by requiring the establishment of "a causal relationship" between the Veteran's disease and their exposure to dioxin-related herbicides. This would have essentially ended Agent Orange benefits.

Our inbox was hit immediately with two alerts, one from VFW, one from FRA. We immediately posted here asking all Veterans to go to the CapWiz page hosted by FRA to automatically send a letter of objection to both their Senators. FRA makes it very easy to do this.

We also wondered, since Agent Orange and other dioxin-containing herbicides is strictly a Vietnam War problem, where was VVA?

As it turns out, we received a rather nasty email from one of the high muckety-mucks at VVA, informing us that VVA was the organization that caught this move of Senator Coburn’s, and didn't we know that VVA had been the entity to notify FRA and VFW?

Ummm…how in the world would we know that?

Well, let's see...we heard from FRA, VFW, American Legion, but not...VVA. Not even the second day when further emails from the VFW and FRA, and the American Legion announced the success of the effort to hammer the Senate grass roots style, and get the motion tabled...thank you Senator Murray!

So when we posted the thank you to all for their efforts, we included a question about the VVA being absent from the effort to reach out directly to Veterans to help with the effort. That generated a rather gratuitous slam by the VVA official, and upset some VVA folks.

Today we received the VVA's Web Weekly, which, among other things, recounted the events surrounding Senator Coburn's amendment.

The VVA's public thank you to its own Veterans waited until today.

The appearance is that VVA relied on other groups to reach out to Veterans, including those under their own umbrella, apparently eschewing a special edition of their VVA's Web Weekly email system to go directly to their constituency. We have to ask: Why? Why take the chance of missing someone? Certainly, VVA has some members who do not belong to any other Veterans Organizations. Unless those members are tuned in elsewhere, which in our experience is highly unlikely, they will have gone through the whole event without hearing word one about it before today, IF they get the VVA's Web Weekly [which is sent out about three times per month, rather than on a weekly basis].

We work hard on this blog, and on the group we formed here three years ago, the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War. We pride ourselves on getting the word out when things happen, as quickly as possible after we hear it and confirm it. We also provide help in understanding what is happening. Compared to the national Veterans Service Organizations, this blog, and the VASVW Forums reach less than a thousand persons. We do our part, but we’re small. So when we see one of the biggies dropping the ball when it comes to keeping their people informed, and involved, we'll point that out.

We have a great working relationship with FRA, VFW, and American Legion. We've reached out several times to VVA, and have been largely ignored, shunned even...a sad way for the umbrella organization to treat an organized, specific segment of their own constituents.

Our “shot” was not fired at the membership of VVA. It was fired at the organization’s administrative team for dropping the ball by not communicating to its own Veterans.

We enjoy life membership in the VVA...and the American Legion, VFW, FRA, AMVETS, DAV, and more than a few other national Veterans Service Organizations. One of our best friends, another VVA member, repeatedly reminds us that, "A Veterans worst enemy is another Veteran," a sentiment many members of the VVA will recognize when they read it. How unfortunate it is that Veterans have enemies among their own peers, for only the Veterans lose as a result.


”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 © 2005-2011: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Seventh Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.


  1. Anonymous09:34

    Thank you for making me aware of Senator Coburns veterans bill, I contacted my districts congressional leaders and asked them to vote against this discriminatory veterans bill. We need your voice and alertness to keep us informed, thank you again. Thomas Farley USMC 1964-1968

  2. Thanks, Marine!

    We do our best. Life for a Veteran is complicated enough to confuse anyone, and dealing with AO is even more daunting. So we try to clarify the picture so the Veteran gets the info he needs. We try to involve the Veteran as that is more effective than Washington lobbying, and leaves the Veteran feeling a sense of participation, and accomplishment. Veterans, more than any other subset of citizenry, have earned the right to be heard, and when they are being abused, they need to tell the abuser where to go. But they must be armed with timely and correct information that is understandable.