During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed to remove jungle foliage. A toxic chemical in the herbicide, dioxin, was been linked to devastating health effects, including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, prostate and other cancers, Type II Diabetes, and Parkinsons disease. In 1991, legislation was enacted that empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled Vietnam veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA limited the scope of the Act to only those veterans who could provide orders for boots on the ground in Vietnam. Boots on the ground encompassed infantry and the inland waterways and harbors. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam, commonly called blue water veterans, were forced to file individual claims with the VA to restore their benefits, which are then decided on a case-by-case basis. The VA has denied more than 32,880 over the past years. A May 2011 report issued by the Institute of Medicine concluded that plausible routes of exposure to Agent Orange exist for blue water veterans. However, legislation was needed to allow VA to extend Presumptive coverage to these veterans. Presumption would lift the burden from the individual veteran to prove direct exposure to Agent Orange - a nearly impossible task due to a lack of record keeping and the inability to know the precise location of dioxins in the air and groundwater runoff . It would also reduce backlogged VA claims by automatically covering claims for disability compensation from these veterans who are suffering from diseases that the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) has introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R.543) to extend coverage and associated benefits with Agent Orange exposure to this additional group of Vietnam Veterans. The National Association of Uniformed Service (NAUS) has endorsed this legislation and is encouraging the military community to ask their legislators to also support it.
They have provided an editable preformatted message at http://capwiz.com/naus/home/ for you to use to send to your legislators with the click of a button. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 26 Apr 2013 ++]