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The Blue Water Vets Are Injured, Angry, and Not Taking Anymore!
Blue Water Navy Removal from Presumptive Herbicide Exposure Fails the Test of Logic.
‘Presumptive Exposure’ is based on the concept that a lack of data precludes any one individual from providing definitive proof of exposure to a substance (in this case, herbicide used in Vietnam). If individual A is a member of a group that was potentially exposed, and that individual later presents with specific disease deemed to be related to herbicide exposure, then individual A is ‘presumed to have been exposed’ by virtue of two elements: proximity to the exposure area and diagnosis of a specific disease.
The original area of acknowledged exposure, as written into the VA’s 1991 M-21 Manual, was the Theater of Combat, as demonstrated by the award of the Vietnam Service Medal. By definition, the Theater of Combat was the identical area designated for eligibility for award of the Vietnam Service Medal. Attached are: an image of the boundaries of the Theater of Combat AND the identical area of eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal; and the history of eligibility for presumption of exposure to herbicide as written in the M-21 Manual, showing changes from 1991 through 2002.
In 2002, the VA changed the definition of a Vietnam veteran to “someone who actually served on land in the Republic of South Vietnam (RVN).” For the purposed of herbicide exposure, that eliminated previously eligible veterans whose feet did not touch the soil of South Vietnam, or a dock or a pier that can be considered an extension of the land.
This action created an arbitrary line that defined where herbicide exposure stopped; that line was the shoreline of Vietnam. It does not include the ports and harbors of South Vietnam, some of which are surrounded on 3 sides by land. Presence on the water is excluded from eligibility unless that water was fully inside the geographical boundary of the landmass of South Vietnam. The one exception is the inner harbor at Qui Nhon, which is located beyond a bottle-neck entrance.
The logic of the 2002 alteration demands that exposure to herbicide could not take place off the landmass of RVN. Presence in the harbors cannot result in presumptive exposure, nor can any proximity to the land while offshore. The logic of this alteration creates the following ambiguity:
1) Because no data exists to provide documented evidence, a veteran who served on land is given the presumption of exposure to herbicide if he has a disease associated with exposure to herbicide;
2) Because no data exists to provide documented evidence, a veteran who served offshore is not eligible for presumption and must show documentation of exposure if he has a disease associated with exposure to herbicide.
Veterans who served offshore Vietnam meet the criteria for eligibility of presumption of exposure to herbicide because, through multiple potential exposure routes, offshore veterans were in an area that had the definite existence of a potential for TCDD exposure. This is the same principle for ‘presumption of exposure’ that is applied to those veterans with “boots on ground.” The herbicides drifted on the air, saturated into the dirt and dust, clung to particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere, and floating on or in the water being discharged from the rivers and canals into the sea. These define the risk of exposure to every ship in the 7th Fleet that served offshore Vietnam at any distance within the Theater of Combat.
There is no medical, scientific or logical proof in existence to refute this assertion. Absolutely no environmental evidence exists to prove herbicide exposure of any veteran who served on land or on the inland water system. The offshore veterans present with the identical diseases as those who served with ‘boots on ground.’ They were in the same area and must have had the same causation for their identical diseases. If the VA used consistent logic, all Blue Water Navy veterans would be given the same presumption of exposure as those veterans who actually served on land in the Republic of South Vietnam.