Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Keeping the lid on the Congressional pressure cooker

Many veterans have simply given up in the battle over Agent Orange. With so many no longer alive there are fewer voices to tell the stories. As I have been writing, this IS NOT an issue confined to Vietnam as we all know. Agent Orange was used in many countries and local communities, forests, and along the nation’s highways back here at home.

With Agent Orange legislation the focus of committee hearings in both the Senate and House, this is not the time to cut and run. This is the time to keep the lid on the pressure cooker and not let up. As I said in Friday’s column, the government and the chemical companies devised a game plan early-on to divide the enemy (the US veterans, civilian populations, the government contractors, and the USO volunteers), keep each isolated as much as possible, and wait out the inevitable time period when our numbers die off.

We will never know to what degree collusion between government agencies and the chemical companies has occurred because the way the system works, there has been no simple way to drag them all into court, present all the evidence, and let the jury decide. No, the cards are stacked against those with claims, with “tribunal-type systems”, which restrict access to justice. Decisions are being made by bureaucrats based on applications that have to be made without full access to all the facts. Since the government controls the records/files, and can hide behind the cloak of secrecy, it becomes a steep uphill climb for an individual to justify his/her claim in many instances. By keeping each group separated…“boats on the ground”, blue water navy, civilian contractors, and USO volunteers, each must navigate whatever legal channels can be opened, which is beyond the financial reach of most.

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