Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 (HR 2254, 111th Congress)

What's the Problem?

For you younger kids, Agent Orange was a poison we sprayed on Vietnam to make it harder for the enemy to hide in the jungle.

Problem is, the poison got on our guys too and causes all sorts of problems. Since they were essentially wounded in service, the surviving veterans deserve care for their wounds.

Problem is, some of the wounded were "Blue Water Navy". Those supply ships carrying the poison wouldn't necessarily touch shore, just pull up and dump stuff off. The sailors who didn't set foot in Vietnam got exposed all the same in the normal course of handling the poison.

Problem is, when the Blue Water Vets try to get help for their injuries, the Courts ruled in Haas vs. Peake that they are Shucks-Out-Of-Luck. The reasoning is crazy .... the Court says it's just TOO HARD to figure out whether a ship came close to Vietnam; the Court never having heard of a ship's log.

What's the Solution?

The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 is to fix this maddening injustice. If you have a yellow ribbon on your SUV, you'd better call your congresscritter to support this thing ... before the Blue Water vets are all dead and you can just wax sentimental.

According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs:
Congress Must Act to Restore Earned Benefits to All Vietnam Veterans – Including “Blue Water” Vets!
May 8, 2009

Washington, D.C. – House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) announced the introduction of H.R. 2254, a bill to restore equity to all Vietnam veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange.

“We owe it to our veterans to fulfill the promises made to them as a result of their service,” said Chairman Filner (D-CA). “If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would. And as a country at war, we must prove that we will be there for all of our veterans, no matter when they serve. The courts have turned their backs on our veterans, but I believe this Congress will not allow our veterans to be cheated of their earned benefits.”

H.R. 2254 would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure. In order to try to gain a better military vantage point, Agent Orange, which we now know is a highly toxic cocktail of herbicide agents, was widely sprayed for defoliation and crop destruction purposes all over the Vietnam War Battlefield, as well as on borders and other areas of neighboring nations. It was also stored on U.S. vessels and used for vegetation clearing purposes around U.S. bases, landing zones and lines of communication.

Currently, VA requires Vietnam veterans to prove a “foot on land” occurrence in order to qualify for the presumptions of service-connection for herbicide-exposure related illnesses afforded under current law. This issue has been the subject of much litigation and on May 8, 2008, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld VA’s overly narrow interpretation and the Supreme Court later denied certiorari essentially affirming this ruling. However, Congress clearly did not intend to exclude these veterans from compensation based on arbitrary geographic line drawing by VA.

H.R. 2254 is intended to clarify the law so that Blue Water veterans and every service member awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. If enacted, this bill will make it easier for VA to process Vietnam War veterans’ claims for service-connected conditions that are linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War and that are identified in current law.

Chairman John Hall leads the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the subcommittee with jurisdiction over these issues. He stated, “With this legislation, Congress will leave no doubt that the ‘Blue Water Navy’ and all combat veterans of Vietnam are intended to be covered and compensated; thus ensuring that these veterans will receive the disability benefits they earned and deserve for exposure to Agent Orange. This is the cost of war. We asked these brave men and women to fight for us and serve their country, and it is a grave injustice that they have had to wait this long for treatment. We must place care of our soldiers among our top priorities. This applies for all past, present, and future conflicts.”

“Time is running out for these veterans,” concluded Chairman Filner. “Many are dying from their Agent Orange related diseases, uncompensated for their sacrifice. There is still a chance for America to meet its obligations to these noble veterans. I will work with my Congressional colleagues to provide the earned disability benefits and health care to the thousands of Navy blue water veterans and survivors that earned this care in battle.”
(full press release)

What's can Little Old Me Do?

  • Call your Congresscritter; you can get the 800 number at www.callcongress.orgAsk your Representatives whether they support the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009; if they do, thank them nicely; if they don't, ask why not? Letters o.k. too, but take too long to get through the anthrax screening; emails are better than nothing but are so easy to do that they lack punch. A phonecall to your rep's local office might be good too.
  • Read the Text of the bill
  • See who's sponsoring it and what the bill status is on GovTrack
  • Pick apart the idiotic court decision that lead to denying health care to injured "Blue Water" veterans: Haas vs. Peake
  • Remember, HR 2254 appears to be a re-start of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008, but let's hope the new Congress can get'r'done this time
  • Learn more about Agent Orange and the Blue Water Navy.

10 comments:

veterans lawyers said...

Thanks for supporting our veterans, I agree that there needs to be better medical care and benefits.

Sue

Howard said...

Thank You! Thanks for all you are doing.

Howard
Vietnam Vet 11/65 to 5/66
Tin Can Sailor "Blue Water Navy"

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your concern and help

Sailors Daughter said...

I was so happy to find this information - you have no idea. I am working with my Father on his appeal after a recent denial of benefits. He has a spinal tumor (still not operated on since September 08), etc. etc. that his neurologist at the VA is sure came about as the result of AO Exposure. I will do all that I can to help get HR 2254 passed and all Blue Water Vets the care, benefits, and respect they deserve!

Bill said...

Thank you for all the information you are giving to veterans. Wanted all to know that Facebook has an Agent Orange Equity Act "Cause" which can help people further publicize this issue.

rewinn said...

Thanks Bill!

Here's a link to the Facebook "Cause"
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/217204/14264403

Please go there, join the cause, invite ALL your FB friends ... and call your Congresscritter's local office ... your phone call means more than a hundred emails because it's more work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those of the House and Senate that have supported this bill. Now if we can just get it thru, then just maybe we can get the help we all need.

aethomasthomas said...

I am a Blue Water Sailor from 1964-1965 era. I have suffered a so called silent Ischemic heart attack, ad 4-5 so called silent Ischemic strokes. I stated having illness when I was 53 years of age. I am now 66. The US Government knows about Agent Orange and its effects, but yet won't compensate blue water Navy. Instead Hillary Clinton screwed us again, by going to Vietnam and paying them off. She is now the Jane Fonda of the 2000's. I bet Jane Fonda is happy she has come along.

aethomasthomas said...

5 CLAIMS IN SINCE 1997. NOW THEY ARE TELLING ME I AM VIETNAM ERA BECAUSE I AM US NAVY. HOW CAN CONGRESS AGREE WITH SCREWING THR US NAVY AND AIR FORCE. I WAS SEWRVICE CONNECTED BY A DOCTOR AT THE VA HOSPITAL AND VA SAID SCREW THERE OPINION, ONLY THE VA AND GOD CAN SERVICE CONNECT!

aethomasthomas said...

H.R. 2254 SHOULD BE PASSED! VIETNAM VETERAN WITH 4-5 STROKES AND ONE HEART ATTACK. SERVICE CONNECTED BY THE VA HOSPITAL DOCTOR. THE VA SAID SCREW THERE OPINION, AFTER THEY SENT ME THERE!