We failed once again to receive any relief from Congress on the return of Agent Orange medical compensation benefits despite having 77% of the House (335 out of 435) and 47% of the Senate (47 out of 100) signed on as co-sponsors in support of our two pieces of legislation, HR-969 and S-681. We will see this legislation return in the early days of 2017, but we will have to memorize new numbers, as the Bills will be re-introduced and we start once again finding co-sponsors.
The actions and support of the membership this year was exceptional, and especially so under the direction of Susie Belanger, our Director of Special Projects, along with countless others including some great Congressional Staffers. Additionally, the work accomplished throughout this year by Commander John Wells, (USN, retired), our legal counsel and advisor, was stellar. John's sacrifices and unending self-funded efforts are highly commendable and will hopefully be reimbursed on both the spiritual as well as financial planes.
We also managed to finally get Memberships Cards printed and mailed, although some members experienced delivery delays due to the holiday mail slow-downs. We have Ray Melninkaitis, Director of Corporate Resources, to thank for that. If your name was in our database, Ray made sure your card got out. If you have any questions regarding that, Ray stands ready to help you.
My own main focus will remain on working with getting claims processed for individuals and groups needing the extra push or unique concept to challenge existing VA Laws and Regulations. The Boots On Ground Claim Guide ideas should start showing at least limited success shortly. And new challenges to the inland waters/harbor water rules will be appearing shortly.
My friend Ben helped me express my overall sense of how the Blue Water Navy made out this year by capturing the essence of "Our Christmas Gift from Congress, 2016." But despite that, I have high expectations for what we might accomplish next year and through the next two years with the 115th Congressional Session. I cannot give up on our fight, and I certainly hope none of you will, either. We need to stay bonded during this period of frustration and we do that by our individual commitments to the Blue Water Navy Family. Please stand ready to help with the upcoming tasks to keep our fight going.
I hope every single one of you enjoys a very Blessed Christmas season and can move into 2017 with a renewed sense of Hope and Prosperity.
John Rossie, Executive Director