“Without those basic benefits,” says John Paul Rossie, Executive Director of the Association, “we estimate that the majority of those veterans may have died in debt from having to pay for treatment of their own service-connected war injuries, and many could have had their lives prolonged to a significant degree if they had been given the medical treatment automatically provided to all other veterans of the Vietnam War.” Joining Rossie in his crusade is retired Navy Commander John Wells, Director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc.,
In February, 2002, 11 years after the unanimous passage of the Agent Orange Act, the VA redefined a ‘Vietnam veteran’ as someone who “must have actually served on land within the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) to qualify for the presumption of exposure to herbicides.”
John Wells is a lawyer who takes on cases of active duty court-martials in addition to being admitted to the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims, assisting veterans fighting for their benefits from the DVA. Military-Veterans Advocacy has joined Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association in a law suit against the DVA, claiming administrative error in refusing to acknowledge advice from the Institute of Medicine to provide benefits to the men who serviced offshore, and also for ignoring the medical and scientific data proving the ships of the Seventh Fleet were daily exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange and its dioxin content. The suit also challenges the VA’s interpretations of the phrase “service in the Republic of Vietnam” on international law principles as applied by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Military-Veterans Advocacy, along with Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, has also gone to Congress to seek relief. A bill introduced by Congressman Chris Gibson (R NY) has the bi-partisan support of 225 co-sponsors. This bill, HR 5433, will restore the presumption of exposure to those who served in the bays, ports, and harbors and in the territorial seas of South Vietnam.
“The VA has taken an unbelievably arbitrary and capricious approach to this issue,” Wells noted. “They refuse to accept that Agent Orange, which was mixed with petroleum, floated down the rivers or was blown by the wind out to sea. As confirmed by the Institute of Medicine and the University of Queensland, the distillation process converting salt water to drinking water enriched the dioxin in Agent Orange. This water was then used for drinking, washing, laundry, cleaning and food preparation. The Australians as well as our own CDC noted a higher cancer incidence among Navy veterans than those who served in-country. It is easy to understand why. And Australia has been granting benefits to their Navy veterans who served offshore since 2003.”
Public contact of legislators will raise the number of co-sponsors and will increase the probability of HR 543 being released from Committee and passed. Without that solution, Navy and Marine veterans of Vietnam will continue to die without VA treatment.
Blue Water Navy Veterans
Blue Water Navy Veterans