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Politics

Charlie Crist Wants to Reform How VA Deals With Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

October 2, 2018 - 1:30pm
Sherrod Brown, Charlie Crist and Dean Heller
Sherrod Brown, Charlie Crist and Dean Heller

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is leading the charge in trying to change how the VA handles veterans impacted by Agent Orange. 

Along with U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and U.S. Rep.  Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., Crist is championing the “Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act.”

Crist introduced the bill last week and showcased it on Monday. According to his office, the bill  “requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to adhere to an expedited process to expand Agent Orange coverage for new illnesses linked to exposure by the National Academy of Sciences, automatically providing benefits to veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffering from designated conditions.” The Tampa Bay Democrat noted that some veterans impacted by Agent Orange are seeing as long as three years delay in the VA handling their cases. 

Crist weighed in on the bill which was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. 

"When a veteran’s medical condition is determined to be linked to their exposure to Agent Orange, they should not have their benefits tied up in bureaucratic red tape," Crist said on Monday. "I urge Congress to take swift action on this bipartisan, bicameral bill to help our Vietnam veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve that for too many have been delayed or denied."

"When it comes to taking care of our veterans, we owe it to them to be proactive rather than reactive," said Mullin.  "The Agent Orange Act of 1991 required the Secretary of the VA recommend new illnesses associated with Agent Orange until the requirement lapsed in 2015. The Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act simply puts back in place the same recommendation requirements that were in place for 25 years.  I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation alongside Congressman Crist and Senators Heller and Brown so that our Vietnam veterans continue to receive the highest level of care we can provide."

"Vietnam veterans exposed to toxic Agent Orange chemicals should have access to the care and benefits they earned," said Brown. "VA should act quickly when presented scientific documentation related to an illness linked to toxic exposure. Our veterans have waited long enough for action."

"I have veterans in my home state of Nevada right now who are suffering from diseases, such as bladder cancer, that the National Academies of Medicine has associated with Agent Orange," said Heller. "For example, Richard from Reno, Nevada, served in 1968 in the Korean DMZ where Agent Orange was used, and today he has bladder cancer. He deserves compensation for his exposure, and the VA’s failure to act on the NAM reports should not stand in the way. This legislation holds the VA accountable by requiring the agency to make a final determination, and I’m proud to join Sen. Brown and our colleagues in the House of Representatives to right this wrong."

The bill has the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

"It is unacceptable that VA has failed to act on the National Academy of Medicine report linking bladder cancer and other conditions to Agent Orange exposure. VA’s inaction has denied thousands of veterans the benefits they deserve and has forced many of them to accumulate debt to cover the cost of health care for conditions which have been scientifically proven to be associated with their exposure to Agent Orange. The VFW thanks Congressman Crist for his leadership on this issue and is proud to support H.R. 6941, which will correct this injustice," said Carlos Fuentes, the national legislative service director for the VFW.


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Comments

Everyone exposed to Defoliants should be presumed Service Connected for the problems associated with exposure.

This bill should have a higher priority than the Blue Water Navy bill.

I sprayed fence lines at NAS, Agana, Guam 2/1960, drenched with it on one occasion. 22 months of exposure, drank, swam, & bathed in contaminated water . Now I have CLL, ischemic heart (15%), peripheral nephropathy, hypoglycemia, thyroid cancer, COPD, PTSD, end stage kidney decease. The VA says it was never used on Guam. Guam now has almost a dozen EPA SUPER FUND sites (Dioxon) ............"Deny until they die" is the new motto of the VA

I was on the Flight Deck of the Carrier USS Oriskany for 41 months 1962-1965. It was an older ship. The drinking water was so salty, I could hardly drink it. I have a lot of health problems, Diabetes, Neuropethy, cysts, that have been removed, Cloracne which VA calls Rosacia, High Blood pressure, Enlarged prostate, I had lots of rashes on the flight deck.They Lied about my blood prssure when I was being processed out of the Navy

Why doesn't some one that has President Trump's ear tell him what is going on with us Blue water sailors.

October 1, 2018 Senator Johnny Isakson U.S. Senate, 131 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 205100001. Re: HR 299 Blue Water Navy, Presumptive Agent Orange Benefit. Dear Senator Isakson, I begin my letter with a quote from General Colin Powell. He gives an interesting view of those individuals like yourself who present themselves as leaders of this Country. General Powell places great responsibility on those who have the awesome task of leadership. His message provides a reflection to identifying one as a leader of men. “The day the soldiers stop bring you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” You Sir have the distinguished role of determining the post-military life of thousands who merit distinction of being called a Veteran, as defined by military service to one’s country. Many thousand veterans depend on your guidance and diligence which affects their lives. You are the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs. In the ranks of Vietnam military veterans is a group that is exiled from brothers and sister who served in Vietnam. At present and since the late part of June 2018, you Senator Isakson, have held in-check The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act of 2017. This Bill, HR 299, provides long-awaited recognition of [by comparison] the small group men and women who served aboard ships during the Vietnam War. It is without questions the importance of their role parallels that of the thousand who held a different placement in Vietnam. With sobering realization of the ultimate sacrifice by the men and women whose name appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Vietnam Navy Veteran served with great distinction when ask to do so by this Government. Without mentioning all the meaningful and beneficial acts coming from this Committee over the years, you Senator Isakson have lost your leadership role to these 90,000 remaining Navy Veterans who have been left without the same benefits (compensation and treatment) provided to any and all who did not serve aboard ships, but by definition served in-country Vietnam. The VA determined these who served in-country deserve the entitlement of Presumptive Agent Orange Diagnosis. I agree wholeheartedly. Thousand of these in-country veterans have suffered long with diseases that may have come from the defoliant Agent Orange. [But] so has the shipboard veteran. You and committee members express concerns that scientific proof does not exist that any of the Blue Water Navy Veterans were ever exposed. I do not wish to swap words with the Honorable Chairman. I will say that we, you and us, look at the 382 House Representatives who passed the bill, because they believe the Navy Veteran did suffer from Agent Orange Exposure. The men and women of the Blue Water Navy are not asking that you and the committee establish new benefits, in fact we are only asking that you return to us what was taken away in 2002. This year 2018 saw the House of Representatives guided by the leadership of Congressman Phil Roe passed HR 299. Senator, the passage was not marginal, but came on a vote of 382-0. Introduced by House member Rep. David G. Valadao (R-Ca.), we finally had achieved a long sought after victory, one being that the House provided a path for the return of our benefits that were included prior to 2002. Finally, we felt the support of our government. On September 21, 2018, in the absence of movement by you to follow the House in approving the bill, U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21), joined by 118 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, sent a letter to you the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee urging the timely consideration of H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act by the Committee. Representative’s Valadao’s letter came after you held the August 1st, 2018 meeting. Hoping you would act in an expediate manner, the thousands saw you begin and end the August meeting repeating rhetorical words that you would not be bullied into approving this bill. You were not bullied Senator. Your position prevents bullying, but you are the custodial caretaker of HR 299. The committee met again ,this time with newly appointed Secretary Wilkie. Once more the meeting came and went, still no legitimate decisions were made. You continued to keep us in political limbo, as had been done since 2002. Nearly ninety thousand Blue Water Navy Veterans are looking to you for leadership that will lead to the Senate an opportunity to support these Veterans. Congressman Roe has provided that leadership in the House. You, Senator Isakson have yet to take civil responsibility as the Chairman and the determining factor that will bring fairness to these Veterans. You have taken the good part of three months without making any semblance of a decision let alone one of equity. You are a Senator in the Congress on the United States. You occupy a powerful political seat as chairman of this committee. We Blue Water Navy Veterans deserve a roll-call vote in the Committee and on the floor of the Senate. It is time notice is given to our nation that this chairman is failing his position as a leader; that this chairman deliberate action to keep the bill from the floor is done while nearly four hundred Vietnam veterans are dying each day. Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh calls his treatment by some in the Senate committee nothing less than a “National Disgrace.” As a Navy Veteran of the Vietnam War, I suggest your non-action equates to the same words. It has taken sixteen years for the bill to resurface to this level of attention. Give us the benefit of your doubts Senator, we were there, you were not. The men and women who served in the Blue Water Navy deserve more than lip service from a man of you political statue. With no more than an intent to provide the voters with information about the bill, I quote: “During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide “Agent Orange” were sprayed to remove jungle foliage. A toxic chemical in the herbicide has since been linked to devastating health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), various cancers, Type II Diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 (AOA) empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA stopped giving benefits to blue water veterans and limited the scope of the AOA to only those veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off of the Vietnamese coast or in bays and harbors were required to file individual claims to restore their benefits, which have then been decided on a case-by-case basis." Key Provisions: • H.R. 299 restores the presumptive coverage for those who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam that existed prior to 2002 and lifts the burden from the individual veteran to prove direct exposure to Agent Orange. • The presumption currently exists for veterans who served on land and inland waterways, and therefore the bill places Navy personnel on the same playing field as those who served in country. • The legislation would also reduce backlogged VA claims for veterans who are suffering from diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange, therefore reducing the overall VA backlog. Senator Isakson, in addition to support from various national organizations, 330 Members of Congress, including 155 Republicans and 175 Democrats have cosponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives. Many feel with equitable treatment from your committee, the Senate will pass the bill without any opposition or discussion. We ask only that you provide the opportunity to do so. I question that your decision to not bring the Bill to a vote is related to the mid-term election. Senator Isakson with some intent for comedy, most Vietnam Veterans are past sixty years of age. I am 74 years old. I walked, for the last time from the quarter-deck of the USS Topeka CLG 8 on August 4th, 1966. Time is running out Senator. Respectfully, I seek your leadership to send this bill forward. It is the least you can do to honor the men and women who served aboard ships during the Vietnam War. I leave you with this message. Honor is not an entitlement but is earned justification. Sincerely, Charles Muse, RM2, USN USS Topeka CLG 8 Tonkin Gulf, Vietnam 1965-66

Do the Vietnam War Era Veterans who served in Thailand in support of the Vietnam War who were exposed to herbicides receive care and when will S.2105 and H.R.4843 pass through Congress?

Agent Orange was used in the I Corps area of Korea. Even the VA admits it today and those GIs (including me) who have AO recognized disabilities receive VA classifications. Again, congressmen who don't know history. Do it right sir.

This is a national disgrace the way the VA and Congress had denied the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans . Who were exposed to Agent Orange . Our Veterans defended the Constitution of The United States and expected their country to take care of them. They have not and it's all over funding

There is a lot of talk is going on about how everyone doesn’t like the way H.R.299 is being funded and how it is unfair for some Veterans to pay around $350 a year more on their mortgage to pay for it. While I agree that it may not be the best way to do it, Congress has left us no choice and no other options. I would like for you to look at in from a different angle. What about the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran that must go to the doctor and pay co-payments. In my case the amount I owed was over $2500. That may not seem like a lot to you , but when you are living on Social Security, that is a large amount. I had to go out and look for a job, so I could pay my medical bills after being forced retired. It got to a point where I no long could afford to go a VA doctor. It was so much that the VA decided to take a portion of my Social Security check so that I could pay it back faster. I am sure I am not the only one in this position. I know in the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association we have many members who are hurting financially because of the cost of their medical care due to the being exposed to Agent Orange. For some reason the VA seems they know better that any other government agencies. The following are three examples. The VA says the cost of providing benefits to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans is over $6.7 billion, yet the CBO estimates it is going to cost around 1 Billion over Ten Years. One agency expertise in spending money and the other agencies expertise is managing money. There are other estimates that the cost over ten years is under 1 Billion far under the VA estimate. Back in 1991 a law was passed to give benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, then is 1998 the VA in their wisdom decided to take away these benefits. Why was the VA allowed to basically rewrite a law that Congress had passed, and the President has signed? The VA is stating that they are going to doing more researching to check on the possibility of the Agent Orange exposure for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. Back in 1991 the following was written into Public Law No: 102-4 it: “Directs the Secretary, for facilitating research on the effects of exposure to herbicides used in Vietnam, to establish and maintain a system for the collection and storage of voluntarily contributed blood and tissue samples of veterans who served there. Provides for: (1) specimen security; (2) authorized use; (3) limitations on acceptance of samples; and (4) authority based on specific funding.” I , and all other Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans were covered under this law, Yet I know for a fact I was never contacted, and I will bet very few of the members of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association or Members of our Facebook page were contacted. Yet the VA claims they have a Commitment to all Veterans. We are still waiting for that, so how can we expect the VA to follow through with their “research”. Each day there is a delay more Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans are dying. This doesn’t only affect Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans but their family members. I have been contacted by a Widow that is very worried about making her house payment since losing her husband. She is close to losing her house. Her husband died of an Agent Orange related disease. How can our government keep allowing this to happen? I know for a fact that if I don’t receive benefits before I die, my wife will be in the same position. We Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans have waiting long enough, please let H.R. 299 go to a floor for a vote. The time has come to help the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association is a non-profit tax-exempt group organized under Section 501[c][3] of the Internal Revenue Code. We assist and advice Veterans on current legislation, right now focusing on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. If you need any other information, please feel free to contact me at: Email: commander@bluewaternavy.org Phone: 408-803-0764 Sincerely, Mike Yates National Commander/Executive Director Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Association

Served Uss Horne Navy . I have been told by VA doctor I have AO just no way prove went inland with captain . It would be wonderful ì blue water

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