Monday, March 25, 2013

Latest info on Senate Amendment: Not included

The Library of Congress's website for tracking legislation, Thomas, finally posted the list of all the amendments submitted to the Senate that were voted on in the rush to get the Senate Budget passed.  Unfortunately, S.AMDT.611, the Blue Water Navy Veterans bill that was rolled into the Senate Budget, was never inserted into the budget after all, because it was, among several hundred amendments that never came up for a vote before the budget passed.  [Indeed, it was originally listed as submitted for inclusion in the Senate budget, but was never brought to a vote.  That does not mean it was turned down, just that it was not included in the budget.   We still await the introduction by Senators Gillibrand and Graham of the Senate version of HR 543.]

So, there is no BWN legislation in the Senate Budget that was passed during the late night session on March 23rd. 

Click here to read the list of amendments voted on for the Senate Budget the other night.

But does that change things?

No.  There is still HR 543 in the House of Representatives, currently sitting in the Veterans Affairs Committee.  We urge you to follow the advice given the last post to visit your US Representative for a face to face meeting.  They are home now and will be for at least ten days. 

Now is the time.  Call and make that appointment at the closest office to you so you can meet your Representative and let him know what must be done.  Move the bill out of committee with a favorable recommendation, fund the bill and pass it. 

This will likely be our last chance at this legislation.  Don't waste the opportunity.  


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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Senate Passes BWN Amendment - Faces Tough Road



In a marathon all night session, members of the US Senate passed the first budget to come from that body in over four years.  Of news to Blue Water Navy Veterans of the Vietnam War, and their spouses and survivors, was the inclusion of Senate Amendment 611, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY], and cosponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC]. 

That is the good news.
  
Now you must understand the road ahead and the pitfalls that await the progress of benefit restoration for BWN Veterans of the Vietnam War as this and other pieces of legislation work their way through Congress.  

First and foremost, this is not a bill making law.  This is a Senate Resolution, and while it is generally to appropriate money for various and sundry projects the Senate likes, and to fund the day-to-day operation of the US Government, it does not make law.  It appropriates money.  Accordingly, as a resolution, it declares the sense of the Senate that the Agent Orange Equity Act is something the Senate, as a whole, wants to see happen.  It does not lay out how that is to happen, but allocates funds for it to happen.  

The bill passed by a 50-49 vote.  Four Democratic Senators up for reelection in Republican leaning states crossed the aisle and voted with Republicans to vote "no" to passage of this entire budget resolution.  There is a glimpse of the political landscape in the US Senate.   

Now the bill goes to the House of Representatives for a vote.  There it will meet fierce opposition by the House Republicans because the Senate Budget raises taxes by a trillion dollars, while cutting spending increases on only $850 million over a ten year period, thus offering only $1.85 trillion in cuts to the deficit.

The House also passed a budget recently.  The House budget is more responsible in that it cuts the deficit by about $4.5 trillion without raising taxes.  

Let's talk budget deficit and national debt.  Budget deficit is the amount of money allocated by Congress each year subtracted from the amount of revenues generated by the Federal government through taxes, fees, tariffs and so on.  It is called a deficit since the annual budget has exceeded revenues for quite a while, causing the United States to amass an enormous National Debt.  The roughly $900 billion budget deficit for the current [2013] year adds to the mounting National debt, which now stands at well over $16 trillion dollars, or more personally, about $53,260 owed by every man, woman and child in the United States of America.   

 So, when you see the projected "deficit" figures proposed in budgets, they are talking over a ten year period.  At the current rate, $9 trillion will be added to that $16 trillion dollar debt by this time in 2023.  The Senate budget will reduce that $9 trillion figure to $7.85 trillion.  The Republican backed house budget will take that $9 trillion dollar deficit figure back to $4.5 trillion, effectively cutting the annual deficits in half, and bringing the nation closer to a balanced budget, with no deficit and enough surplus to whittle away at the national debt [most of which we owe to China.]

So where does this leave the Agent Orange Act?

When the Senate Budget resolution goes to the House for consideration and passage [passages as is will not happen], the House will strip a ton of spending and the tax increase from it to make it closer to its own version that reduces the budget deficit over ten years by $4.5 trillion with no new taxes.  

When the House budget is considered by the Senate [passage as it will not happen], they will add taxes to it, and spending.  

Eventually, the two budgets will land in the middle in what is called a ‘Joint House-Senate Conference Committee,’ which will attempt to hammer out a compromise version of both bills hopefully acceptable enough to both Houses that they will pass it, and send it on to the President for signing.  

In conference committee, the most vulnerable amendments for cutting are, of course, those without a law-making bill behind them.  That would include Senate Amendment 611, the Agent Orange section of the VA budget.

What could possibly save the bill?  

You can.  All of us can.  Get the US House of Representatives to pass the bill introduced by Representative Christopher Gibson [R-NY19], HR 543, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, and do so before the two bills go to Conference Committee.  That means within the next month, two months at the outside.  That gives the Senate Amendment a law-enacting bill from the House to back it.  That most likely pulls it from the "probably will be cut" pile and puts it into the "let's talk about this" pile in the Conference Committee.  

We know it is difficult for most of you to travel.  But travel you must, as it will likely pay off for you in the long term.  You must call your local US Representative's office [look in the front of your phone book for the office located closest to you], and ask for an appointment to meet with your representative about the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013".  It doesn't matter if your Representative has cosponsored or not, get to his office and sit with him and make it clear he must help get that bill out of committee and passed on the floor of the House.  And he must ensure that funding for the bill is authorized.   

You must make this push now.  Absolutely and without exception go to your Representative [Don't go to an open public meeting where he is campaigning, but make an appointment to meet him in his local office closest to you when he is not in DC] and talk to him one to one, and tell him your story.  Don't try to take up a lot of his time [figure on getting 15 minutes maximum with him], shorten your story and tell him the bill will fix so many things for so many Veterans, including you, and will also restore the honor of the Blue Water Navy Veterans who did indeed fight in Vietnam.  

No letters this time...just go.  If you do nothing else, go see your Representative.  Do so with an appointment. 

It is your life and your legacy which is at stake. 

Let’s make this push so we all have something to leave behind.
 
VNVets
 
”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets
 
"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the 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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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, March 19, 2013

Attention Diabetics: Eat Fruit!

A recent article in the Nutrition Journal  details a study of overweight adults with Type II Diabetes.  It is the first study to look at Fruit, as there has always been some insistence that Diabetics should avoid fruits because they contain the wrong type of sugar. 

This study show otherwise and all Type II Diabetics should now feel free to eat plenty of fruit.  

Loss of weight translates into lower blood sugar and fruit replacing carbohydrates and sugars in your diet can make a big difference.  

Click here to read the study.

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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Support Care and Medical Treatment for the Children of Vietnam Veterans

This is just a short note to ask you all to support the treatment of the Children of Vietnam Veterans by going to a website hosting a petition.  We ask that you sign the petition. 

Click on:


Thank you!

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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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, March 11, 2013

VVA AO Legislative Agenda

Testifying at the same March 6 meeting of the joint Senate/House VA Committees, John Rowan, National President/CEO of the Vietnam Veterans of America [VVA] presented the following testimony on [among other issues]:


"Agent Orange/Dioxin & Other Toxic Substances

VVA calls on Congress and the President to take steps to declassify all documents from the years of the Vietnam War, including memos between agencies, dealing with Agent Orange/dioxin and make them public – now, almost 50 years since our government sprayed some 20 million gallons of extraordinarily toxic compounds over five million acres of the former South Vietnam.

VVA shall continue to support legislative efforts and other initiatives to achieve justice for naval personnel serving aboard ships plying the waters of Yankee and Dixie Stations in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin by getting the VA to recognize that they are deserving of the same health and other benefits as in-country “boots-on-the ground” veterans. 

VVA shall continue to advocate on behalf of the veterans of the crews who flew C-123 transports contaminated by the remains of the barrels of Agent Orange they once ferried into and out of Vietnam and are now suffering some of the same peculiar health ills as are in-country Vietnam veterans.

VVA shall request that Congress investigate why the VA has ceased providing custodial care and/or non-medical case management service for Agent Orange children afflicted with spina bifida and then join us in pushing the VA to provide these vitally needed services to these now adult children – innocent victims of a parent’s military service.

VVA is deserving of our respect and support in its fight for Veterans Benefits.

Click here to read the entire testimony of President Rowan.

Click here to join VVA

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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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.

Friday, March 08, 2013

FRA AO Legislative Agenda Statement


The Fleet Reserve Association has been a staunch supporter of efforts to regain the presumptive eligibility for exposure to AO for Blue Water Navy Veterans.  At the Joint House and Senate VA Committee hearing on March 6, 2013, Mark A. Kilgore, National President of the Fleet Reserve Association [FRA], which, presented its legislative agenda for 2013. 

Here is the President Kilgore’s FRA statement regarding Agent Orange:

Agent Orange

"From 1964-1975 more than 500,000 service members were deployed off the coast of Vietnam and may have been exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide used in Vietnam. Past VA policy (1991-2001) allowed service members to file claims if they received the Vietnam Service Medal or Vietnam Campaign Medal.

"The Association appreciates the establishment of a presumptive service-connection for Vietnam veterans who have B cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease or ischemic heart disease.  These diseases are related to exposure to Agent Orange.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s decision was based upon an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 report and this is a major step in the right direction, but FRA is advocating for a broader Agent Orange service-connection.

"However, a January 2013 VA statement referencing a careful review of another IOM report in 2011, entitled, “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure,” indicates that there is insufficient evidence to establish a presumption of exposure to herbicides for Vietnam veterans who served off the Vietnam coast during the conflict.

"FRA believes that decision maintains the status quo regarding disability claims of these so-called “Blue Water” veterans and that the IOM report validated the 2002 Royal Australian Navy study that confirmed the desalinization process used on Australian and U.S. Navy ships actually magnified the dioxin exposure.  The Association continues to seek a legislative remedy to reverse current policy so Blue Water veterans and military retirees who have health problems commonly associated with herbicide exposure will be eligible for service-related VA medical and disability benefits.

"FRA notes the VA’s efforts to expand presumption to ships exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam era.  In January 2012 the Department added 47 ships to its list of Navy and Coast Guard vessels that may have been exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide.  The list expanded as VA staff determined that a ship anchored, operated close to shore or traveled on the inland waterways and was exposed to the toxic herbicide.

"While the expanded VA policy to include veterans who sailed on “inland waterway” ships is significant, FRA believes it does not go far enough.  The Association has received hundreds of calls from “blue water sailors” and their surviving spouses, stating that due to service on “their ships” in Vietnam waters, they too suffer or have died from many of the illnesses associated to presumed exposure to herbicides as their “brown water” and “boots on the ground” counterparts.

"The Association wishes to thank Representative Chris Gibson (N.Y.) for his introduction of H.R. 543 “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013.”  The bill was introduced with 42 original bi-partisan co-sponsors.  FRA looks forward to the Senate introducing companion legislation and potential hearings on this priority issue of the Association.”

---------------------------------------------

President Kilgore also testified about the claims backlog, the COLA changes, and a host of other issues. 

FRA has been advocating for Blue Water Veterans almost since the issue arose 11 years ago.  If you are not a member of the Fleet Reserve Association you should be. 

Clickhere to read the FRA’s testimony in full. Click on the top link to open a Word document



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 © 2005-2013: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Ninth 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.