From Military-Veterans Advocacy Report from Capitol Hill


This trip started on a high note with the introduction of House Concurrent Resolution 161 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 51. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik [R NY] along with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice [D NY], Congressmen Chris Gibson [R NY], David Valadao [R CA), Mark Takano [D CA] and Tim Walz [D MN] sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 161. Senator Chuck Grassley [R IA] introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 51 along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand [D NY] and Steve Daines [R MT]. These Resolutions articulate the sense of Congress that the original Agent Orange Act of 1991 intended to extend the presumption of exposure to the bays, harbors and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam. Senator Grassley was approached by Military-Veterans Advocacy to introduce the Senate resolution because he was a co-sponsor of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Unfortunately, no co-signers of that bill are left in the House, but Congresswoman Stefanik agreed to take the lead.

I briefed HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller [R FL] on the Concurrent Resolution and the Blue Water Navy issue in general. He needs to review the Resolution and promised to do so during the recess. Our 15 minute meeting was extend to 25 minutes and he was receptive to much of what I said. We disagreed on whether testing an inactive hip would be a viable option. Based on the traces of Agent Orange found on the C-123s, the Chairman felt that traces should remain. I pointed out that the tanks in the aircraft were not constantly flushed post-deployment. Additionally, ship board tanks were often repainted, evaporators descaled and piping replaced during maintenance or overhaul availabilities. I do believe that he is at least receptive to our position. He also noted that he hears about our issue wherever he goes.

I also met with the staff of every Senator of both parties on the SVAC to discuss the Senate Concurrent Resolution. Everyone seemed to be supportive. I also met with both the majority and minority SVAC staff with positive result. SVAC Chairman Senator Isakson approved the resolution and Senator Grassley will ask for a unanimous consent. One Senator, identity unknown, has asked a question about cost. We had provided the Congressional Budget Office with an advance copy and they had agreed that the resolution should not have any cost. Unfortunately, because of the request, CBO has had to ask various input including from the VA. As of Friday afternoon the VA had not responded. We will continue to track this situation closely.

We have continued to raise concerns about the so-called appellate reform proposals. This proposal was written by the VA for the VA. It may reduce the backlog, but at the expense of the veteran. The bill limits the VA’s duty to assist and restricts the choice of pathways for the veteran. VA law practitioners are united in opposition to this bill, although the Veteran’s Service organizations have, unfortunately, bought into the VA narrative. The action did pass the House but, I am hopeful it will be stopped in the Senate. I have the assurances from a number of people in the House and the Senate that they will work with Military-Veterans Advocacy on a proper appellate reform during the next Congress.

Military-Veterans Advocacy is also concerned about the political issues that are blocking Senator Isakson’s "Veteran’s First" bill. This bill includes the Toxic Exposure Research Act that is critical to developing a national policy to correct toxic exposure problems and possibly to prevent such exposure in the future.

Military-Veterans Advocacy also had the opportunity to meet with "Operation Stand Together" leader Vince Diem. We support Vince’s efforts and will provide whatever assistance we can from the legal and legislative stand point. We will continue to track critical veterans bills as well as bills affecting our military preparedness. You can monitor our progress and even make a tax free donation at www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org

Commander J. B. Wells U. S. Navy (Retired)
Attorney at Law
Executive Director
Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc.
PO Box 5235
Slidell, LA 70469-5235
985-641-1855
985-649-1536 (fax)


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