from Susie Belanger, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association:
I would like to share an update on the progress of H.R.3612, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2011. Last week Representative Gibson's legislative liaison met with the committee members from DAMA, the Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs. He reported that he had a positive meeting. They are working on offsets and expect a CBO score soon.
What is taking a little longer is the fact that all of the ships that served in the inland waterways of Vietnam are now considered on the "presumptive" list which will reduce the cost of the bill. As of today there are 214 ships on that list with more being added periodically.
Another cost saving measure, is the fact that every Navy veteran who served offshore Vietnam who has a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, including SLL or CLL is covered under an entirely different Statute, 38 CFR 3.313 .
I have attached a letter (unavailable on this blog) sent to Senator Gillibrand, who was a Congresswoman at the time, with the details of this law. These veterans are now removed from the cost of HR 3612 cutting the cost even further. We feel confident that because of these factors listed below, this bill will have a reasonable price tag.
The current language of HR 3612 per request of senators and congressmen last session has been drastically narrowed from that previous bill.
Sailors who served on the 214 plus ships that sailed on inland waterways will be subtracted from the total. They will be compensated under the "presumptive exposure" rules.
We anticipate a significant cost recovery from Medicare eligible veterans who will be transferred to the VA Health care system. Most veterans who will be covered by this bill are Medicare eligible or will be in the near future. The VA Health Care system will be cheaper than the Medicare system, in part because the fixed costs (salaries, buildings, equipment) are already allocated. This should result in a positive recoupment of Medicare dollars. Additionally, a number of veterans who met the cost threshold are covered under the non-service connected provisions of existing law. Coverage of these veterans under the proposed bill will result in a dollar for dollar set off against the funds allocated to cover non-service connected program.
Blue Water Navy Veterans who are diagnosed with NHL are being compensated under CFR 3.313.
We believe that the mortality rate of Blue Water Navy personnel is far higher than current statistics would suggest.
Here is a link to the list of ships the DVA has acknowledged to have served on the inland waters of Vietnam.http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/list.asp
HR. 3612 has 58 cosponsors with strong bipartisan support. We invite you to look over this news and consider joining Representatives Carter and Thornberry in supporting an important bill that will clearly show that the 112th Congress can work together to do the right thing for our veterans.
As the wife of a US Navy Vietnam Veteran, married to him during the time he served, I can tell you that the wives sacrificed as well; I was proud to stand behind him and would do it again. We look forward to the time when all of our Vietnam Veterans are finally Welcomed Home restoring their dignity and faith in the country they so proudly served.