WHAT IS THIS LEGISLATION?
In her Press Release following the introduction of Senate Bill S-1629, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand gave a good discription of what this legislation is all about.
WHO SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION?
More than 30 Veteran Service Organization strongly support this bill to return dioxin-based medical care and compensation to the Blue Water Navy personnel.
HOW CAN YOU HELP? - SEND A LETTER TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVES IN WASHINGTON!
Our Congressional leaders need to hear from their own constituents that the voters they represent want this bill to be passed into law. Please use this convenient link, provided by our friends at the Fleet Reserve Association, to quickly and easily contact your legislators with just a few clicks of your mouse button. First find each Bill (S-1629 and HR-3612) on the Action List. Click on it and then simply enter or confirm your Zip Code. You can use the pre-written letter and even add your own wording, if you'd like. Be sure to choose both the House Bill and the Senate Bill to contact all your Washington Legislators.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
You can help spread the word far and wide that every voter in your local area, and even voters across the country, need to understand this legislation and help get it passed in both the House and Senate. If you would like to spread information in your local area, we have templates available for you to use. Please feel free to use the Letter to the Editor (150 words) and/or the short Guest Article (326 words) if you would like to send something to your local newspaper, your on-line or print community newsletter, or anywhere else you think this information would help others understand and support our current situation. Edit them or use them right from here, verbatum, and sign your own name as author. The more support we can generate directly from the constituents, the stronger the message our Lawmakers will hear.
You can also send a note to everyone in your email address book, to all your friends and relatives, asking them to come to this web site and use these links to contact their Congressional representatives.
These are difficult times for America, and we need to come together to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people. Thank you for doing your part to send the message to our Congress that veteran benefits have been earned, and must be paid for. That message holds true for our older veterans as well as for our younger and newer veterans. The cost of war never ends when the last shot is fired.
This is not a 40 year old problem. We are seeing it repeated with the veterans of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is setting a dangerous precedent if they are allowed to randomly choose a group of veterans and suspend their eligibility for benefits that are available to all other veterans of the same conflict. The DVA is already able to deny treatment for diseases and injuries which occurred during Active Duty, even when the cause is known - the claims for service-connected disability are simply ignored and not acknowledged by the DVA. In the case of the Blue Water Navy veterans of Vietnam, the DVA has absolutely (by their own admission) no logical, medical or scientific reason to support their actions. In fact, the medical and scientific data supports the inclusion of the offshore personnel in same Health Care and compensation benefits given to all other veterans of the Vietnam War.
Thank you for your assistance in correcting this grave injustice.
If you care to make a donation to the Blue Water Navy Association, you may do so here. Please keep the organization up and running. The Blue Water Navy Association is a non-profit, 501c3 organization.
Your donations are tax deductible and we will send you a receipt for tax purposes.
Here's one lone sailor's saga: AGENT ORANGE BATTLE RAGES
WHY DO WE THINK BLUE WATER NAVY PERSONNEL WERE ACTUALLY CONTAMINATED BY THE DIOXIN IN AGENT ORANGE?
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and published in 1990, contains the following information. Following this study, NO MORE MEDICAL INVESTIGATIONS of any substance to understand this phenomena were conducted or funded by United States. All medical follow-up work was done by the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs. The Royal Australian Navy served at the same time, in the same waters offshore Vietnam along side the US Naval Forces on the same kinds of ships during the years of that Conflict.
"As part of a series of investigations into the health of Vietnam veterans, we [the CDC] conducted a population-based, case-control study of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma between 1984 and 1988. All men born between 1929 and 1953 and diagnosed as having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in an area covered by eight cancer registries were considered eligible. Control subjects were identified by random-digit dialing from these same regions and were frequency-matched to men with lymphoma by age. Analyses of 1157 men with pathologically confirmed lymphomas and 1776 control subjects showed that the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was approximately 50% higher among Vietnam veterans (odds ratio, 1.47; 95% confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.0) compared with men who did not serve in Vietnam. Vietnam veterans were also at higher risk relative to (1) men who had not served in the military, (2) other veterans, and (3) other veterans who served between 1964 and 1972. An analysis of the military histories of the 232 Vietnam veterans suggested that the relative risk (1) increased with length of service in Vietnam (P = .10), and (2) was higher among men in the sea-based Navy than among other veterans (P = .11). Little difference in risk, however, was noted according to dates of service, type of unit, military region, or any other characteristics that may have been associated with the use of Agent Orange. Although the cause remains uncertain, results of this study indicate that the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is higher among Vietnam veterans than among other men. Source: The Association Of Selected Cancers With Service In The US Military In Vietnam. I. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Selected Cancers Cooperative Study Group - Centers for Disease Control - Abstract found here.
"Navy veterans had the highest rate of cancer, higher than expected by 22-26%..." 1997 Mortality of Vietnam Veterans: The Veteran Cohort Study --(Australian Study #1, Summary) [The five Australian Veteran Cohort Studies can be found here. ]
"Specifically, Navy veterans had a higher than expected mortality from lung cancer (39%) and melanoma (56%), whereas mortality from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was 48% lower than expected. Also mortality from mesothelioma was higher than expected based on small numbers." 1997 Mortality of Vietnam Veterans: The Veteran Cohort Study -- Australian Study #2 Summary
"Only Navy veterans had a statistically significant increased risk of testicular cancer (odds ratio (OR) = 2.60; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.08 to 6.24)." January, 1994, Annals of Epidemiology, "Risk of testicular cancer associated with surrogate measures of Agent Orange exposure among Vietnam veterans on the Agent Orange Registry".
"The highest elevation in mortality was among veterans of the Royal Australian Navy, rather than the land and air forces." (Crane et al., 1997a). Dec. 2002, Examination of the Potential Exposure of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Personnel to Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans Via Drinking Water.
"Of the three service branches, Navy veterans had the highest overall mortality (SMR=1.37; 95% CI, 1.23-1.52) and the only significantly elevated overall mortality. The SMR for Army veterans was 1.00 (95% CI, 0.99-1.05) and for Air Force veterans 1.12 (95% CI, 0.97-1.27). The SMR for deaths from neoplasms among Navy personnel was 1.58 (95% CI, 1.31-1.89). Navy veterans also had significantly increased mortality due to diseases the circulatory system (SMR=1.26; 95% CI, 1.04-1.52) and external causes (SMR=1.48; 95% CI, 1.15-1.86)." Health effects of Vietnam service," ADF Health, Vol 4, Sept 2003
WHAT DID THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE RECENTLY REPORT REGARDING CONTAMINATION OF BLUE WATER NAVY VETERANS?
The IOM released a favorable report on the issue of offshore veteran exposure to dioxin-based herbicides in May, 2011.
HOW DOES THE IOM REPORT HELP THE BLUE WATER NAVY CAUSE?
The May, 2011 IOM Report offers supporting arguments for offshore claims for exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. This Report provides several good arguments to support offshore exposure for Blue Water Navy. It also verifies that the DVA has no possible documentation to refute claims of offshore exposure.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STUDY REGARDING NAVY SHIPS AND ON-BOARD WATER DISTILLATION/DESALINATION?
Examination of the Potential Exposure of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Personnel to Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans via Drinking Water (also known as the RAN Study, the Queensland Study, or the NRCET Study). A Report To The Department Of Veteran Affairs, Australia, 2002 This Report discusses the heat-flash distillation technique, used on all US and Australian ships of that era. All water is sucked in from the surrounding sea water, and all water must pass through the distiller. That water is then used to run the steam turbines that propel the ship and furnishes on-board electricity. What is left over from this process can be directed to the fresh water tanks. When the demands for operating the ship are heavy, only salt-water showers are allowed and water rationing may be put into affect. Ships built prior to mid-1980 had little or no capability to detect and remove contaminants from the water.
The heat-flash desalination/distillation technique was capable of enhancing the toxicity of dioxin. This Australian Study concludes the enhancement could be as much as 400%. When this study was reviewed by the Institute of Medicine in their May, 2011 Report Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure, the IOM found this enhancement in toxicity could be as high as 10-fold. The obvious result is that the men on offshore ships had a continuous contamination via their potable water supply that could have been 10 times more toxic than any dioxin source encountered by land-based troops. But one other element of significance was that the Blue Water Navy contamination was overall of the low-dosage continuous contamination type.
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HR-812 AND HR 3612?
HR-812 was re-introduced in the House of Representatives as a follow-up to identical legislation which was introduced in the previous 111th Congressional Session. Despite the fact the previous incarnation of HR-812 (then known as HR-2254) had collected 261 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, it was not acted on before the close of that Congressional Session. It was deemed to be “too broad and too expensive” to be passed into law, and it died in Committee, never being brought to the Floor for a vote despite the vast number of supporters that had signed on. But HR-2254 attempted to compensate an unspecified group of veterans who had received the Vietnam Service Medal, served on Johnston Island and who flew in undesignated airspace above Vietnam, in addition to the veterans of the Blue Water Navy. HR-812 uses the same language as the previous HR-2254 and maintains that broader view. It would be nice to see HR-812 pass, because HR-1629 is just a smaller subset of HR-812. So anyone supporting HR-812 would, by extension, support HR-1629.
The current HR-3612 has been scaled back considerably to cover only those personnel of the Navy, Coast Guard and Fleet Marines (the Blue Water Navy or BWN) who served offshore Vietnam, and does not address other veterans who served in nearby countries to Vietnam or others who had also been contaminated by Agent Orange. By restricting HR-3612 to Blue Water Navy personnel, a precise head-count can be obtained and therefore a precise cost estimate can be developed. Other veterans from countries surrounding Vietnam and those in other places who were contaminated by dioxin will need to be addressed in follow-on legislation once their numbers can be quantified. This includes the numerous exposures that occurred on US Military Bases within the U.S.
HOW MANY BWN PERSONNEL WILL BE AFFECTED BY HR-3612 and S-1629?
Reports from the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center estimate the number of Naval personnel that served in all of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War was 229,000. This is more than just "at sea" but we have adopted that number to allow for a little extra head count. This number was also reported by the Congressional Research Service in its February 26, 2010 report. Despite the fact that DVA is now claiming that 253,000 men served only on the water offshore Vietnam, their current estimate is much more acceptable than their previous 'estimate' of 850,000, as was presented to the 111th Congress. If they're willing to change history by increasing the number of BWN personnel in Vietnam by almost 350% just to load up this Bill with very questionable numbers, I guess the DoD needs to deal with that one.
One important element that is mysteriously forgotten in the use of DVA-provided numbers is the simple fact that many of these men are no longer alive and only a portion of the remaining number will file for compensation and Health Care under HR-3612. The DVA tends to base their present headcount on the given number of Vietnam Era veterans with little or no decrease attributable to deaths which occurred since that time period following 1975.
We estimate that, of about 38% of Blue Water Navy personnel still alive, only about 60,000 will even be eligible for assistance from this legislation. But only about 21,000 of those will apply for benefits under the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2012.
We have done extensive research to arrive at our own estimates, and have identified defensible numbers. Although these estimates may now need slight updating following the latest COLA, our cost estimates for this Legislation can be found on our Spreadsheet of Costs and Line-by-Line justification.
EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE 229,000 BWN IN THE SERVICE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, HOW MANY OF THOSE VETERANS ARE STILL ALIVE NOW?
We contend that less than half of this number is currently still alive. Those who haven’t died of natural causes have died from the multiple diseases caused by dioxin poisoning. It is the fate of all Vietnam Veterans, but perhaps more so with BWN veterans.
Other projects, such as identifying Blue Water Navy ships that operated on Inland Waters, have eliminated more than 80,000 of the original 229,000 from the need to be counted under these Bills.
Veterans who are seriously disabled from dioxin are on the short-list for survival, as are all their Brothers who served with boots-on-ground. In fact, we project the majority of BWN personnel who are currently suffering from dioxin-cause cancers will be dead before 2017. This projection has been openly challenged, but not with any verifiable data, including the VA’s own projections, which we have factored into our estimates. These veterans have typically gone through critical stages of their illnesses without proper medical care and intervention which they would otherwise have received through the VA hospitals, had they been eligible for that care.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE COST?
Our own projections reflect the most probable expenses this legislation will experience over the next 10 years, which includes Nehmer Retro-pay and DIC payments. In fact, solely to meet the requested ‘standard 10-year accounting projection model,’ we abandoned our original estimates that the program may run out of major participants by 2017, and we extended our estimates to meet this 10-year model. It was developed in 2010 and still terminates in 2020. We see the high probability that the projected funds shown for years after 2017 will not all be distributed.
Our Spreadsheet allows the reader to examine our line-by-line rational for using the numbers that we did. We also provide an identical spreadsheet that can be downloaded and anyone can change the key parameters to reflect their own estimates to see how the total cost changes under different scenarios.
Because we are working with numbers, we repeat our Mantra that the lives of American soldiers and veterans are not commodities that can be given a dollar value. Regardless of the cost of this legislation, it is a debt we have already incurred and it must be paid regardless of the size of the tab. The cost of war never ends when the last bullet is fired. There is only one way to legitimately lower the cost of veteran Health Care and compensation.
ARE THESE VETERANS MERELY SUFFERING THE DISEASES OF OLD AGE?
It was suggested in a recent Senate Hearing that these claims for benefits will be filed by 60-year-old men who have a high probability for contracting many of these maladies at about this time in their lives, and that it would not be possible to distinguish between dioxin illnesses and the expected diseases of old age. I wish to differ with opinion.
It is true that many of the claims related to dioxin poisoning for diseases which have been acknowledged by the VA to be dioxin-related are the same types of diseases relatively common in the male 60+ age group. However, the following elements must first be considered before concluding the age relationship.
Most Vietnam veterans had no idea that the problems that plagued them throughout their lives had anything to do with their Vietnam experience. The DVA did a very poor job of helping Vietnam veterans understand the health issues related to dioxin-based herbicides. In fact, the entire Government was, and still is, in denial of the magnitude of the Agent Orange problem on a local or even global scale. There are dozens of known examples where veterans received treatment from the VA and nothing was ever mentioned that their conditions might be service-connected and could result in the receipt of VA benefits. And yet, the VA doctors continued to see them without divulging this knowledge.
These ‘diseases of old men’ began troubling many veterans in their 20s, 30s and 40s; long before they were old men. In many cases the reason they are dealing with these claims now, at such an advanced age, is due directly to delays and denials on the part of the DVA Compensation Division. Veterans with claims in the system in excess of 8 or 10 years are not uncommon, as are veterans who have filed decades ago but have given up on pursuing their claim for disability because of the “hamster wheel process” of the Compensation System.
Another delay is directly related to the physiology of dioxin within a living system. Dioxin is known to embed itself in the lipid cells (often in the fatty tissue around the liver) and to release itself into the body at random times, sometimes as late as 30 or more years after the initial contamination. The ability of the human immune system is sometimes what can protect various cancer sites from developing inside the body. But dioxin is a known immune-suppressant and immune disrupter, regardless of this acknowledgment by the VA. So, when the conditions are right, dioxin can quickly lay to waste even the strongest of immune systems. But the 30-year delay between initial contamination and actual manifestation of a disease foils many attempts to see a direct causal relationship between the two events and documentation of such relationship is virtually nil.
One thing that medical research has noted is a marked difference between dioxin-based diseases and “normal” diseases such as prostate cancer and Diabetes Mellitus II. A dioxin-based cancer is often much more aggressive and less respondent to conventional treatments. Treatment of dioxin-related DMII simply doesn’t respond to normal procedures. Prostate cancer that has been treated and removed and thought to have been totally eradicated from the body often comes back “with a vengeance,” outside the normal prostate cancer expectations. In cases such as these, it is easy to distinguish between instances where dioxin is an active agent in the disease process and is simply not a “disease of old age.”
DOES THIS BILL COVER ALL VETERANS WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM AGENT ORANGE CONTAMINATION?
No! There are several other groups of veterans of the Vietnam War who were contaminated by dioxin-based herbicide who have lost their Health Care and Compensation Benefits due to the internal changes DVA has made to the original Agent Orange Act of 1991 without the consent of Congress. There are also some groups who were never covered under the Agent Orange Act but have discovered over the years that their sicknesses and disabilities were indeed caused by exposure to Agent Orange dioxin.
The DoD and DVA have not been honest and forthcoming with information provided to Congress or to the veterans regarding where Agent Orange was used and who could have been affected by it. This, and other of the herbicides and toxic chemicals, was used in the countries surrounding Vietnam, including Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Most military personnel who served in Cambodia and Laos were there under classified conditions and much of that information has not yet been declassified. Because of that, it is extremely difficult or impossible for these men to prove they had “boots on ground” in Vietnam, which was often their entry point into Cambodia and Laos, and at times, their Area of Operation.
There are veterans who served on Guam where Agent Orange was both stored and used. They never served in Vietnam, and yet they suffer from the identical Agent Orange diseases as the Vietnam War veterans do. Several individuals who served on Guam have been awarded benefits for exposure to Agent Orange. But an unknown number of others, including Navy and Air Force personnel stationed on Guam during the Vietnam War, and civilian dock workers, are also suffering and dying from these same diseases and haven’t yet made the connection that their problems have anything to do with their military service of 35 or 40 years ago.
We are also learning that Agent Orange and other herbicides were tested on US bases within the Continental United States and that military personnel at those locations were exposed to dioxin. Every herbicide we used in Vietnam was first tested at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. Tens of thousands of Canadian military personnel and their families who lived on base or in the area near Gagetown were exposed to dioxin. The Canadian Government has also been slow to admit this and has not been truthful about the extent and time frames that these experiments on their own citizens took place. Many National Guard troops from the New England States trained in the dioxin-contaminated forests of Base Gagetown. Like the U.S. Government, these activities are covered over with Canadian political and military secrecy, and they, too, are waiting for their victims to die before admitting their liabilities to their citizens. Much of this information is documented and available for examination.
These current bills before the House and Senate cover only the Navy, Coast Guard and Fleet Marines who served off the coast of Vietnam because these victims can be identified and counted, which allows our Congress to put a ‘price’ on the value of the lives that have been lost and damaged. Additional follow-on legislation needs to be put into place for Thailand, where only limited exposure is admitted; Guam, where the herbicides were used and where they were stored; U.S. Military Bases, foreign and domestic, and other locations where testing, use and storage of the herbicides took place.
The reason for scaling the current legislation back to cover only the Blue Water Navy offshore veterans is financial. As repulsive as the concept is of “putting a price on a veteran’s life,” we are required to play under those rules. We have been advised by both Senate and House sources that we will be more successful in getting help for veteran Agent Orange victims if we provide legislation for smaller groups. The Blue Water Navy Association has no intention of “leaving any man behind.” Once the research and identification of additional groups are ready, we intend to support the additional legislation to cover care for them, one group at a time. We won’t stop until we’ve accounted for every one of our comrades in arms that suffers from dioxin exposure.
WHY HAVE OUR BILLS IN CONGRESS HAD SO MANY DIFFERENT NUMBERS?
Congress works in two year cycles. Every two years, there is a new Congressional Session. If, when at the end of a session, there are any Bills still pending, like being in Committee or not yet voted as law for whatever reason, all those Bills ‘die’. Then they have to be introduced again in the next Congressional Session.
Congressman Bob Filner first introduced HR-6562 (the first version of the Agent Orange Equity Act) in July 2008. That was during the 110th Congress which ended on Dec. 31, 2008. At that time, HR-6562 had not been passed, so it died. (HR stands for House Resolution). There was no correlating Senate Bill at that time. When HR-6562 died, its identifying number went away, because each new Congressional Session starts fresh with their own numbering of Bills.
On January 1, 2009, the 111th Congressional Session started. It ran from Jan 1 2009 to Dec 31, 2010. During the 111th Congress, there were two Bills for the Blue Water Navy introduced. Rep. Filner introduced a new version of the Blue Water Navy Bill, HR-2254 in the House. Senator Gillibrand eventually introduced S-1939, a companion to that in the Senate. By the time the 111th Congress came to a close on Dec 31, 2010, neither bill had come out of the House Veterans Affairs Committee or the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee. Neither had been brought to the floor for a vote. There were 261 members of the House that said they would vote for HR-2254 if it came to the floor. That would have been enough votes to pass the Bill in the House... but even then it was never brought to the floor for a vote. In the Senate, there were about 19 individuals that said they would support it, but it also never came to the floor of the Senate for a vote. On December 31, 2010, both HR-2254 and S-1939 died.
The 112th Congressional Session started Jan. 1, 2011. All previous bills were dead and a new numbering for the 112th Congressional Session started up. On March 15, Congressman Filner re-introduced a Bill with the exact same wording that use used in HR-2254 and it was assigned the identifier “HR-812.” During the 111th Congress, the language of HR-2254 (now HR 812) was unpopular because it was vague on its total cost, and therefore deemed too expansive. In October, Senators Gilllibrand and Graham introduce a slimmed down (less expensive) version of the Blue Water Navy bill in the Senate, and it was assigned the number S-1629. Then, in December, Rep. Chris Gibson introduced a Bill in the House with the same wording as Senator Gillibrand's bill, and they identify that with the number HR-3612.
This is the middle of the 112th Congress, so on January 1, 2012, nothing changed; all the bills are still alive with their current identifying numbers, and they just move into the second (and final) year of the 112th Congress. In the year 2012, we hope both these Bills are passed and signed into law.
Here is another presentation on the Life of a Bill that you might enjoy. [Cut and Paste this link into your browser window -> http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7266360872513258185 ].
WAS THE BLUE WATER NAVY EVER COVERED UNDER THE ORIGINAL AGENT ORANGE ACT OF 1991?
Yes, without question. When the VA wrote up the M-21 Manual rules to describe how to adjudicate claims for presumption of exposure to Agent Orange, they included the ships offshore. This rule was in place until their illegal change to the M-21 in 2002. Please refer to this Fact Sheet that addressses that issue.