Watch Washington, Blue Water Sailors are About to be Sunk Again!
Vietnam Veterans, particularly Navy Veterans who served in the coastal waters around Vietnam, need to be watching Congress carefully right now. Over the past several weeks yet another bill recognizing Agent Orange exposure for Blue Water sailors is again stalled in Congress.
This time a lone senator, Mike Enzi (r) from Wyoming is stalling the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Senator Enzi backs his objection by claiming that the VA won’t be able to handle the stress of the additional claims.
I am not sure what kind of stress he is thinking about. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the bill at 1.1 million dollars. Some unofficial sources claim the bill would cost 5.5 million over 10 years. This is not even a rounding error for the VA. Also, it would quickly grant thousands of claims that now have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
As background, when the VA first acknowledged Agent Orange related illnesses they included all Vietnam Veterans as exposed. Then in 2002 the VA decided that a service-member had to actually stand on the soil of Vietnam to be exposed. This disenfranchised thousands of Navy Veterans who served in the coastal waters.
The VA ignores scientific evidence that those who served on those ships were bathing in, and drinking, water that actually contained higher concentrations of dioxin than were found in soil samples from Vietnam.
The VA also ignores that Blue Water Navy Veterans have higher rates of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Type 2 Diabetes, and Peripheral Neuropathy than land-based forces. All of these are associated with Agent Orange (Dioxin) exposure.
Currently, if a Vietnam Veteran is diagnosed with one of several dozen conditions, the VA grants service connection on a presumption that the cause is Agent Orange. However, if that Vietnam Veteran is a Blue Water Sailor who cannot prove that he ever touched land in Vietnam there is no presumption.
Blue Water Veterans can still prove their case on an individual basis but this takes years and years of work to accomplish. Many Veterans give up or die trying to navigate the VA alone. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would restore the presumption to Blue Water Sailors and reinstate their benefits.
So the solution should be simple, as if anything is simple in Washington. Call your Representative. Call your Senator. In particular, call Senator Enzi at (202) 224-3424 and tell him that Blue Water Veterans have been treated unfairly and he needs to remove his objections and treat all Vietnam Veterans by the same standard.
Joseph G. Scone, Esq.
USMC - US Army (retired)