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Mar-03-2010 15:54printcomments

Solving the Agent Orange Problem!

Pelosi, McCain, Kerry, Burton All Step Forward in Support of the Agent Orange Bill.

Town Hall meeting with John McCain
Town Hall meeting with John McCain
Courtesy: farm4.static.flickr.com

(LITTLETON, Co.) - In a historically unprecedented show of bipartisanship and solidarity in support of the veterans of this great country, key figures in both chambers of Congress stepped forward to give their support to the Agent Orange legislation.

Speaking forcefully, Senator John McCain referred to his brothers in arms, saying "Those who so nobly served our country and their families have been patient long enough. This should not be a political debate. They deserve answers. They deserve action."

Hoping to quell any division of Congress on this issue, McCain went on to say, "I believe this is a fair and equitable approach to deal with the controversy that surrounds Agent Orange. For too long, much too long, the Government's response to Agent Orange has been based on opinion, perhaps even politics, but certainly not on facts... Our Vietnam veterans served our Nation with dignity and honor..... In spite of the risks, they answered our country's call to fight. It is time we settle the controversy over Agent Orange once and for all."

Representative Pelosi, wanting to put all this behind and move forward, said "Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange have been forced to cope with both life-threatening illness and the belief that they had served a government which had not fulfilled its obligation...These veterans demand and deserve the support of Congress.... I urge my colleagues to honor the Nation's commitment to all of its veterans and support this important legislation."

John Kerry, himself a Vietnam Navy veteran, stated, "No other issue...elicited as much emotional concern and continued consternation as the contradictions that have been evident between the promises that the Government has made and does make with respect to veterans, and the contradictions in the studies, the willingness of Government to try to sort them out."

Wisely, he warned: "...this does need to be codified. It is appropriate we pass this into law. Just as a regulation is issued on one day, it could be withdrawn on another."

Senator Burton summed the problem up succinctly. "The debate on whether compensation should be provided for illness related to the exposure to Agent Orange has gone on far too long. It's time to settle the issue, so we can move on to other serious problems."

This atmosphere of finally settling the issues of Agent Orange compensation seemed almost contagious as both Representatives and Senators rallied their support for this important Bill.

Their statements were unforgettable; the depths of their feelings about this were ingrained deep within their souls; their swelling with pride to stand up for veterans was heartwarming. This outpouring of support for the American veteran happened in late January, 1991. It's almost as if it could have been said last week.

Now they are being asked to once again come to the aid of veterans fighting the ravages of Agent Orange, and essentially re-affirm the original intent and language they already voted on.

These legislators have already supported the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and are some of the original signers. We're now asking them to once again include all affected veterans suffering from dioxin poisoning, including, as they did originally, those veterans with service offshore Vietnam, and now adding a few others in combat and support roles in countries around Vietnam like Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

But they are nowhere to be found. How fleeting these reckless moments of patriotism can be. How hollow the toll of the Liberty bell that sometimes rings out.

Of the Original Signers of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, with all their fancy and glorious talk of supporting veterans and honoring this Nation's commitment to take care of our wounded soldiers, at least 13 of them have yet to step forward as a co-signer.

They, not their staff, don't return emails, phone calls or faxes. It really makes one wonder about the sincerity of promised support and past actions. How can these patriotic American legislators, who we have kept employed these past 19 years, forget their commitments? How can these individuals even hint at supporting our current veterans when they are not willing to reaffirm what they waved their flag about 19 years ago? The list is a long one:

  • Representative Snowe of Maine;
  • Representative Young of Alaska;
  • Representative Burton of Indiana;
  • Representative Bilirakis of Florida;
  • Representative Bilbray of Nevada;
  • Representative Pelosi of California;
  • Representative Inhofe of Oklahoma;
  • Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts;
  • Senator Conrad of North Dakota;
  • Senator McCain of Arizona;
  • Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey;
  • Senator McConnell of Kentucky.

In 1991, the fervor backing legislation to end the damage that dioxin was doing to our Armed Forces demanded nothing short of a final, complete and equitable handling of all complaints. The focus was that all service personnel in the Southeast Asian Theater of War would be taken care of, in such a way that even allowed some possible abuse of the system in exchange for a higher certainty that all those who really needed help would receive it. So there was purpose in leaving the language just a little vague.

The Original Signers will certainly be welcomed when they once again step forward to co-sign H-2254 and S-1939. We haven't given up on them. We're just trying to understand the mysteries of politics. For instance, how does an apparently strong patriotic fervor continue to this day, but focused a little askew to put the veterans of the past into a blind spot? A veteran is a veteran.

And a solution is a solution. Reading those statements, there's nothing that would indicate they aren't addressing our current legislation. They indicated that a final solution was being put into place. But it didn't quite work out like that. And it didn't just suddenly happen. There were glaring signposts along the way. After setting that goal:

- The VA made it nearly impossible to receive approval for claims seeking dioxin-based service connection for care and compensation. Only about 7% of the nearly 100,000 applications have ever been granted. So any complaints about the ungodly cost of this, or any other legislation is just so much hot air;

- At certain times, the VA has pared down the size of the full group of veterans it was legislated to care for. It happed with the Air Force in the mid-1990s. In 2002, the offshore combatants were eliminated.

So, really, what's the point in doing something half-assed and then pretending it's no longer a problem. It sure wasn't framed that way 19 years ago. But I just heard a complaint: "How many times do you expect us to keep going back and addressing this issue?"

Well, I would have thought it would only need to be done once, and then watched to make sure the intended solution held watertight. But let's get real, shall we? If you let the agencies of the government subvert, or in some cases flagrantly disobey, the law, then you'll have to go back as many times as it takes to finally fix things up. It's an issue of quality, not quantity.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was some of the most important veterans' legislation that came out of the last half of the Twentieth Century. But it had some fatal flaws and now it needs to be fixed. Now we've got the Agent Orange Equity Act to set things right again.

What can we do to get both H-2254 and S-1939 out of committee for a vote? Don't they deserve a fair hearing? Doesn't the number of co-sponsorship indicate what the general thought of the American people is about that subject? There's no reason to sit on them and every reason to pass them into law. There's no argument that will hold water that we can't afford it.

These are the lives of veterans we're talking about. There's no argument that the VA can take responsibility for this without it being law, because, like Senator Kerry said, if we leave it as a VA promise, there's nothing that can be done when they change their minds about it. And the VA is notorious for doing just that.

My suggestion to the legislators? Get these two bills out of committee, pass them without a bunch of political posturing, and then get on to other important matters that need your attention. The American public has already weighed in through their contact with the Senators and Representatives that have been hired to relay the will and wants of the people.

Use this as a test case: You've been voted into the positions you hold because we expect you to do as we wish. You've been doing an extremely poor job of that. Here's a great chance to show that you really mean what you say when you claim to support our troops as well as support your constituents. It's just a matter of doing the right thing.

=============================================

John Rossie (left) &
Congressman Filner.

John Paul Rossie, Executive Director of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, served aboard the USS Radford (DD-446), a Fletcher-class Destroyer out of Pearl Harbor, from August 1968 until her decommissioning in December, 1969. He was on board for the 1969 WESTPAC Cruise and was part of the crew that stayed aboard to salvage the equipment from RADFORD prior to committing her to the moth balled fleet at Vallejo, CA. He finished his tour in June, 1970, aboard the USS Piedmont (AD-17) in San Diego, CA. Today he stays busy advocating for American veterans through his role with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association.

Learn more about the group and their mission by visiting bluewaternavy.org. You can send an email to John at this address: navy@bluewaternavy.org .




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Mrs. Vet Advocate July 23, 2010 9:40 pm (Pacific time)

DYING IN TENNESSEE has the problem we all face. Lives cut short due to AO and it's effects. This country is great but still not adaquate enough to handle it's war veterans properly. My husband is dying of AO disabilities and he, also, knows it. We do need active compassion, not boo hoos.


Mrs. H for Disabled War Vet hubby July 23, 2010 9:36 pm (Pacific time)

We are waiting for our Compensation Rating for my husband's Vietnam service to five areas of Vietnam and the ringing memory of a surgeon of the VA Hosp. calling to state, "your husband's arteries were not clogged they were disintigrated!" When I had to stay home to care for him and he did not even know who I was. Now we wait for the decision of an added disability beyond the M class of 250% ...yes you can get over 100 percent, you then go from A to Z. How many vetereans die not knowing this? How many of our nation's veterans are denied welfare because they have a letter stating they are being paid re-tro actively? Therefore they are not allowed welfare and may wait up to 2 years to receive their back payments from the VA? We need advocacy, BIGTIME for sick and disabled vets.


MASTER SGT April 9, 2010 4:25 am (Pacific time)

SPRAYED AND BETRAYED, DENIED AND CRIED, so many of us vets didn't even know it till we found out last July 2009 Vets and AO Report from IOM AO commission. Sterilty, Chloracne, Diabetes II, Peripheral Neuropathy, Ischemic heart disease, Autoimmune disease MCTD, THEY KNEW BUT WE DIDN'T AND THEY JUST LET US DIE AND DENY OUR SPOUSES AND CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN AND MORE....SHAME ON YOU AMERICA FOR LETTING THOSE IN CONGRESS DO THIS


dboz March 16, 2010 5:31 am (Pacific time)

Obama, and our US congress, get off your asses sign the bill into legislation!! we the Veterans of Viet-Nam are out of time, or is that what your waiting for? For all of us to die to be swept under the rug and forgotten about.


Chuck Palazzo March 8, 2010 11:09 pm (Pacific time)

John, Thanks for bringing this to the forefront - if only our lawmakers would stop the rhetoric and listen to we Veterans! Listen to themselves for God's sake! Enough is enough! It is true - wait long enough and most if not all of us will be gone. But as you know, Agent Orange and dioxin specifically is insidious and affects generations. This worldwide calamity must not be ignored lest we will repeat it's effects time and again - eliminating the human race as well as the already unstable environment we live in. -Chuck


Namvet15m25id March 7, 2010 12:45 pm (Pacific time)

I find it very disheartening and callous by our Congress and several Presidents who continue to deny Veterans their just due. We fought for our country, only to come home with health issues far beyound any of those associated with our peers. I served in III Corps in 1965, 1966. hmm thats the same time the majority of Agent Orange was used in that area! hmmm. NO I was not in a rear area. Doorgunner in 1965 out of Bien Hoa and Infantry Squadleader in 1966 at Cu Chi. Been in that falling rain, and tramped through areas of dead vegetation! Hmmmm. Sadly so, and curently being experienced by our Iraqi Vets in the same manner, denial, denial, denial. Who in hell sent us to war? The same folks who are denying us now! When is the day that Vets will standup and take our country back? If we do not do it soon, it is going to become th3e Socialists States of America. Rember Gator warned you!!!!


Viet March 7, 2010 10:28 am (Pacific time)

THROAT CANCER FOUND 30 YEARS AFTER VETERAN HAS FILED FOR EXPOSURE TO A/O I LOSE MY VOICE, MY DIGNITY, MY FAMILY. WHAT DO'S THE V.A. DO THEY AWARD ME 100% TOTAL and PERMANENT. 30 YEARS I LIVED WITH CANCER GROWING INSIDE ME ALL THE WHILE THE V A DENIES MY CLAIM. NOW THAT I AM DYING THE GREAT DEPT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS DECIDES TO DO WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE 30 YEARS AGO. LET'S NOT TALK ABOUT BACKLOG LET'S TALK ABOUT INCOMPETANCY ! PURE and SIMPLE NO COMPASSION. JUST SWEEP EM UNDER THE RUG AND BUSINESS AS USUAL. I LOVE MY GOVERNMENT BUT FEAR MY COUNTRY. DYING IN TENNESSEE AND NEVER EVEN KNEW IT?


Chemically Wounded A/O Vet March 6, 2010 1:31 pm (Pacific time)

20% Disability 100% Denied 2 Strokes Left Side of my body dead,Numb,Very painful Currently 15 Pills a day.Multiple A/O ISSUES. 100% Disability from SS Tooke me 4 Years to get that. TO SUM UP THE IGNORANCE OF THE VA THEY STATE CIGARETTE SMOKING WAS THE CAUSE. THINK ABOUT ME 9th INF DIV USING SPRAYING AND BURNING A/O WHILE SMOKING MY GI CIGARETTES< THINK ABOUT IT COMMON SENSE HEY WHY DID THE GOVT. NOT PROVIDE PROTECTINE GEAR TO ME> WHERE THE H HAS COMMON SENSE GONE. JIM JUST 1 of A MILLION LIKE ME GOD BLESS THE USA. 9TH INF DIV BEN LUC VIETNAM 69-69


Van March 5, 2010 12:04 pm (Pacific time)

Great piece John. Thankyou for being there for so many. Let's hope this is the push that is needed. So many have suffered from these toxics our government callously used. My hope is this will expose all areas where our military used these toxics. This is more than just Agent Orange. It's the illegal and immoral experiments, exposure to substances like TCE, radiation in various forms, many pesticides, svoc's, pah's, voc's, tph's, asbestos, so on and so forth, there are too many to name. This has gone on too long and too many have died without answers.


LYNN March 5, 2010 8:33 am (Pacific time)

TALK IS CHEAP MOST OF THESE SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN.MOST HAVE BEEN IN OFFICE FOR YEARS, AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED THEY ARE 40 YEARS TO LATE FOR SOME OF US???


Jack Peller March 4, 2010 6:17 pm (Pacific time)

There are many diseases on the Agent Orange Registry that provide for an automatic service-connected disability, and that list is growing. The VFW, DAV, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, and many other individuals and groups have been advocating for Agent Orange disability policies for decades now. As most know when dealing with the FEDs, things move slow, but there have been some good results gotten by the above groups and they all have professionals working around the clock to get more recognition.


Charles Kelley March 4, 2010 4:32 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Rossie does a wonderful job documenting the callousness of our government in issues in death and disability it created against the nations finest citizens. We have been facing nothing but collusion and meaningless congressional words since the first Vietnam Veteran showed up at Veterans Affairs with strange and usual symptoms. Veterans Affairs job since day on of that first day has been to distance itself from the “rainbow of herbicides” creating many medical issues. Many of us have worked hard for years to get the coverage we have now but there are many more medical issues that should be admitted “as associated”. As one 25 year cancer researcher indicated (a two term member of the Ranch Hand Advisory Committee) this all about common sense now”. We have faced the use of command influence, documented study protocol violations, erroneous study cohort comparisons in order to deny which in fact made any published study data null and void, redacted reports that did not represent the scientific drafts, instead of advocacy we have faced not only an adversarial Veterans Affairs but Presidents and Congress who have not lifted a finger to stop the interference by our own government in what studies were meant to find and document in making health care decisions. Many issues not published or brought forward because of some non-established mythical dose response to any single medical disorder. Matters not that a 600% increase was found or the rate of single disorder was five to ten times the national average. Instead, dioxin was like Orange Juice and good for you. Mr. Rossie has fought a hard and long battle for his fellow Veterans but from first hand experience congressional talk is cheap and has been for 40 plus years and in many cases nothing but election vote counters on bills they know are DOA. Charles Kelley DMZ Vietnam

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