Thursday, May 31, 2012

VVA Offers No Help to BWN


We have taken the Vietnam Veterans of America [VVA] to task on more than one occasion here.  Unfortunately it seems that we must do so again. 

It has become apparent that to the VVA, Blue Water Navy Veterans are, following the lead of current Department of Veterans Affairs Policy, NOT Vietnam Veterans. 

VVA’s National leadership has made a number of alliances that almost totally relegate the Blue Water Navy to a status not worth their efforts, placing them behind those who served on Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Johnston Island, and so on.  There is nothing coming out of the VVA concerning the BWN.  Indeed, they totally ignore small Vietnam Veterans organizations, foregoing their additional numbers, and organizational strength, to further their non-BWN agenda. 

The shame of it is that they ignore men who fought on the coast of Vietnam, received the same Vietnam Service Medal the guys on the ground received, and frequently supported Army and Marine units ashore with naval artillery, and who delivered much of the supplies the folks on the ground consumed.  

Take for example the latest VVA Web Weekly, advertised as the “Memorial Day Web Weekly.”  The VVA Web Weekly, unlike the newsletters of the other major Veterans Service Organizations that arrive on Fridays, arrives on various days the following week.  The current edition includes a link to a section on their website called “Faces of Agent Orange.”  It is concerned mainly with children of Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and the birth defect disorders of those children.  One of the faces included on the list has NO LINK TO AGENT ORANGE OR VIETNAM, but worked in the fight to help children with such afflictions by starting an organization to work on their behalf, which later began including AO related birthd efects.  No one on the list of people whose stories you can read was strictly about a Blue Water Sailor’s story.  There were a couple of stories that included information about Blue Water Sailors who ALSO served ashore or in the Riverine Forces.  The DVA would not question their right to presumptive exposure. 

So where are the stories of the Blue Water Navy’s genetically malformed children and grandchildren?

Now lest you think us callous, we do not denigrate or decry this VVA effort.  Instead, we say to the VVA, “Okay, you are doing work for every facet of Vietnam Veterans except for the Blue Water Navy?  You have never reached out to all the Vietnam Blue Water Navy groups to coordinate efforts to pass legislation RESTORING them to presumptive eligibility.  We see nothing in the Web Weekly issues that points to ANY work done on the current bills in Congress, S1629, and HR 3612.  We may have gotten a paragraph buried in your annual Legislative Agenda and read before the Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs.  Lip service. 

We have personally reached out to the VVA legislative director on many occasions, and we have been, in a word, ignored.  VASVW has almost 500 members.  Imagine what kind of strength the Blue Water Navy Veterans would have if it had the full support of the 50,000 members of the VVA! 

But the VVA apparently could not be bothered.    

We have considered renouncing our membership in VVA.  The difference between 50,000 and 49,999 is small, of course, but we would be remiss if we failed to make a statement about an organization that essentially exists to advocate on our behalf and does not do so. 

VVA touts its founding principle:

"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." 

We ask, “What about the ‘one generation’ that is our own?”

They claim as their goal:

“VVA's goals are to promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.”

We ask, what about the Blue Water Navy issues?  Where is the support?

What a shame.  What a sham. 

At VASVW we do our own advocacy, and we do it without benefit of the resources of the VVA.  On the other hand, we have support from the Fleet Reserve Association and the American Legion. 

Feel free to join the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War.  We take action on our own behalf.  Our members all participate in decision making and in taking legislative advocacy action to get the AO BWN Bill passed.  Join us and do your part.   


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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

VASVW to start Round 2 Congressional Campaign

The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW] is set to begin its member mailing campaign to members of Congress.

Each member gets a personalized letter to their specific Representative, on VASVW stationery to print, fax and then mail to his or her US Representative. The letter is asking the Representative to support HR 3612, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2011.  Included in the email is contact information including mailing address, and DC fax number of that member's Representative. The member is then asked to fax the letter to his or her Representative, and then physically mail it.

Members are also urged to contact their Representative's local office to arrange a meeting with their Representative, and/or to have one of VASVW's Legislative Advocates meet with the Representative and staff at their DC office.

Upon completion of the campaign in the House of Representatives, we will begin another campaign in the Senate that works the same way.

There is strength in numbers. Why not join the 471 members of VASVW today, and add your voice to the member's messages to Congress?

Click here to register to join today. 

Welcome home and Welcome Aboard! 

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."
Psalms, 107:23-30, KJV On this Memorial Day we salute our fallen shipmates.

Robert M. Taylor, USS Camden AOE 2
Steven F. Boody, USS Koiner, DER 331
Richard Appling, USS Intrepid CVS 11
Bruce Langston, USS Takelma ATF 113
Thomas LaLiberte, USS Constellation CVA 64*
Philip Clickner, USS America CVA 66
James Bradford, USS Estes AGC 12

 * President of VASVW 2009-2010

These men served in the Blue Water Navy in the Vietnam War, and then served in the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War. We mourn our members "still at sea" as we do all of the nation's fallen.

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why won’t Congress pass the AO Bill?

Time is becoming an issue. This session of Congress, the 112th Congress, began in January, 2011 and ends in December of this year. That is a scant seven-and-a-half months away. Take away the August recess, and another break in October and November for elections, and December is usually reserved to a few days early in the month to tidy up business, and you are left with a little over 4 months remaining until the Agent Orange Equity bill dies on the table once again, victim of an uncaring Congress.

Introduced last October in the Senate by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY], and Lindsey Graham [R-SC], Senate Bill 1626 [S.1629] still does not have an official estimate of its cost from the Congressional Budget Office [CBO]. Likely this is because the CBO is waiting for some statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA]. This, then, provides cover for Congressmen and Senators to avoid committing to a bill that the Federal Executive Branch [offices under the President] does not want passed. The DVA is a cabinet level department of the President’s Cabinet.

Congress can then throw up its hands and say, “We don’t know how much it costs, so we can’t say if we will or won’t support the bill!” They tell us to tell them how much we think it will cost and where they can find the money.

We have done so. In three earlier posts on this blog we have explained how the bill, S.1629 and its companion in the House of Representatives, HR 3612, can be expanded [click here to read how] to cover ALL Blue Water Navy Veterans who were exposed to dioxin-laced tactical herbicides [Agents Orange, White, Blue, etc.], how much we estimate the EXPANDED bill would cost [click here to read how much], and where Congress can find the money [click here to read where]. We did not just point and suggest, we also provided facts and figures, and solid logical reasoning on each point.

We also pointed out humanitarian reasons for enacting the bill in the expanded version.

The humanitarian arguments have never, ever, had an effect on Congress.

Now, here is where it gets really dicey.

Passage of the bill would mean an increase in the budget for Compensation and Pension payments to Veterans and survivors of a half percent. That’s right, .5%, or one half of one percent. However you want to show it, it is a half a percent increase. That’s based on our MAXIMUM estimate.

We all know how hard it is for Congress to pass ANYTHING to do with spending, so perhaps Congress deems such a small increase not worthy of their efforts. Nevertheless, we have found the money and it does not have to travel far since it is already in the DVA budget in quantity enough to fund the bill several times over! By liquidating real estate holdings, or by postponing non-essential projects, the money can be freed up to pay for an expanded S.1629/HR 3612. No one gets hurt except some contractors who would normally get VA money to maintain those real estate holdings, or to fulfill those project contracts.  And we are not just talking about the expanded part of the bill, but the entire bill!

No Veterans would lose. More Veterans would gain.

Oops, there’s that humanitarian issue again. Gosh, we must be careful. We should not embarrass Congress.

The fact is, we are contending that funding be taken directly from these recently approved appropriations by the House Committee on Appropriations for the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] for 2013, in the Veterans Section…
”Minor Construction – Minor construction at the VA is funded at $608 million, which is $125 million above fiscal year 2012 and the same as the budget request. These funds will allow VA to make progress on the hundreds of projects already scheduled to build or renovate health clinics, medical residences, and nursing homes, as well as acquire cemetery land and facilities.”
”Advance Appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs – The bill contains $54.5 billion in advance fiscal year 2014 funding for the VA – the same level provided in the House-passed Budget Resolution. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care needs.”
…and placed into:
”VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements such as: veteran disability compensation programs for almost four million veterans and their survivors; post-9-11 GI bill education benefits for more than 600,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 200,000 veterans.”
Note: All three of the above citations are from a press release yesterday by the House Committee on Appropriations about the initial fiscal year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. The Press Release can be found here:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=294142

Please take notice of the bold highlight in the third quoted paragraph: “…four million Veterans and their survivors…” A half of one percent of 4 million is 20,000, which is our MAXIMUM estimate of all new claims under the expanded version of S.1629/HR 3612.

So, we are talking about a half of one percent of the DVA’s budget for Compensation and Pension [C&P]. Not the DVA’s budget, and certainly not the government’s national budget, but drilled down to the DVA’S Compensation and Pension Budget. Not even Congress breaks things down that far!

Yes, there are two other components here that we have yet to mention: Retroactive C&P, and Medical Coverage. Both are substantial costs.

We estimated the Retroactive C&P in our original estimate so that was included in the over-all cost of the bill. It is a one-time cost that would cause the initial year’s price to go high, after which the annual cost will decline sharply the second year, and less sharply each year after the second.

The medical costs will go up. The DVA’s budget is structured to account for such increases. With budgeting now for the next two years, allowance is made for the possibility of disabled Veterans being created by new international events, such as wars, raids, and the like. It has to be done that way.

All of this leaves us with the unanswered question: Why won’t Congress pass this bill?

Why have they allowed the CBO to take so long to provide an estimate?

Call your US Representative’s local office and those of your US Senators. Ask them point blank to tell you why there is no CBO estimate for HR 3612 in the House and S.1629 in the Senate. Demand that they take action by contacting the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Representative Jeff Miller [R-FL-1], and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Patty Murray [D-WA], to get that CBO estimate and MAKE IT PUBLIC! Keep calling until you get a legitimate response that gives a figure, then post it here in the comments section. Or email it to us using the ‘email me’ link near the top of the left column on this page.

Edmund Burke was an Irish philosopher and politician who, among other accomplishments, served in the British House of Commons. He served in Parliament from 1765 to 1780, and during that time he supported American Independence from Great Britain. Edmund Burke once said,
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
Don’t make a “greater mistake”. You CAN make a difference. You are one, and each reader is one, but together you are many and there certainly is strength in numbers. Make the calls today! Then you can say with satisfaction that you have not only done a little, but you did something!
 
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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sweepers! Man your brooms! Clean Sweep down fore and aft!

That wonderful, efficient, Veteran-loving outfit we all know and love as the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an Agent Orange Alert for all Vietnam Veterans that they may be susceptible to Hepatitis-C.

Ummm…why don’t they simply add it to the list of diseases? Obviously the disease is occurring in sufficient numbers to warrant an alert, which should be enough to add it to the list! Or does that make just a little bit too much sense?

Just because the DVA is top-heavy with doctors, lawyers, scientists, generals and the like, doesn’t mean there is a shred of common sense [or common decency] in them. That, of course, would be expecting too much.

 ------------------------------------- 

On another note, the estimated $4+ billion of waste by the GSA and other Federal agencies on trips, awards, YouTube competitions, hot tubs, and the Federal Government version of America’s Got Talent shows, would be more than enough to pay for the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011, expanded version, for more than ten years…not that any of us will be around in ten years…

------------------------------------- 

 Finally, there is this:

A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.

Why is this concept only known to and understood by Veterans, troops, and their families?

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Arguments for expanding the AO Equity Act - Part 3

This is the third and final post in our three-part series on expanding the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2001 [HR 3612/S.1629]. We have already presented these three arguments to the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. It is hoped they can see the efficacy of these arguments and adjust the bill accordingly. We will be sending these arguments to every member of Congress - both Houses.

Meanwhile, here is part three.

 Finding the money:

Take the money from the VA Budget [Rural Health Care Center/VA Hospital/VA Administrative Buildings acquisition and construction and staffing, which, if not built, staffing costs would be zero, acquisitions would cost zero, construction would cost zero].  The number of Veterans affected by a three year delay in acquisition, construction and staffing of these VA facilities would be miniscule compared to the number of Veterans receiving VA Health Care from the enactment of HR 3612/S.1629. 

Even so, those Veterans who would have been treated at the VA Rural Health Center or VA Hospital slated for construction will still receive full medical treatment, with emergency treatment paid for by the DVA no matter where the treatment is done, and non-emergency treatment done at the VA Regional Medical Center nearest the Veteran’s home, with transportation either provided or costs reimbursed. 

The Blue Water Navy Veterans, however, will not receive any treatment unless and until the bill is enacted. 

Additionally, the DVA is sitting on a large stock of real estate that is sitting idle, and has been for years.  Liquidation of some of these properties could also provide funding, from their sale, and from savings in maintenance, security and insurance. 

From American Legion online today:

“Appearing before a March 27 hearing of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs (HCVA), a panelist from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said that ‘veterans are not affected" by ongoing delays at several of VA’s major construction projects’. The panelist was Glenn Haggestrom, executive director for VA’s Office of Acquisitions, Logistics and Construction.”


Clearly, even the VA says Veterans can still be treated as they have been for years, until a new center is built, whether that medical facility is built next year, or in 2016. 

So, we are asking that Congress fund the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011 [HR 3612/S.1629] through postponement of the acquisition, construction, staffing and equipping of some VA Medical Centers and Rural Health Centers, and Administrative facilities for a three year period. 

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 © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth 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.