Monday, December 12, 2011

Timeline: Overview of Vietnam naval veterans' struggle for Agent Orange Benefits
(For full coverage, please see Bob Ford's commentary "War Against U.S. Navy Veterans," available online or downloadable in pdf format here Vietnam Navy Veterans War.pdf )

1962 — U.S. military begins spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam.
vietnamwall_Navy vet.JPGA sailor's image is reflected in the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. (AP Photo)
1965 — U.S. starts sending ground troops to Vietnam.
June 1967 — More than 100 ships come through Da Nang Harbor in this month.
Dec. 1, 1969 — The first lottery drawing by the Selective Service.
1973 — President Richard Nixon orders all U.S. troops to withdraw from Vietnam.
1990 — A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that veterans who served in Vietnam have a much higher rate of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma than veterans from the same era who weren’t in Vietnam.
1991 — Congress passes the Agent Orange Act, giving health and disability benefits to anyone who earned the Vietnam Service Medal and suffers from a condition likely caused by Agent Orange exposure.
1997 — A report by the Australian government finds that its Vietnam veterans are dying at a higher rate than non-veterans and that Vietnam navy veterans have the highest early mortality rate.
2002 — The Bush administration begins denying Blue Water Navy veterans disability benefits, claiming sailors were not exposed unless they put “boots on the ground” or traveled on inland waterways.
2004 — The Board of Veterans’ Appeals rules that Da Nang Harbor is an “inland waterway” for the purposes of Agent Orange disability benefits.
2004 — Former Navy Cmdr. Jonathon L. Haas, who served in Vietnam on the USS Mount Katmai and now has two illnesses on the Agent Orange list, files for benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals denies his claim because he did not set foot on land.
2006 — Cmdr. Haas appeals his case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims rules in favor of him receiving Agent Orange-related benefits. Instead of taking this decision as precedent, the VA appeals.
2006 — Australia grants Agent Orange disability and health benefits to its Vietnam sailors.
2008 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rules the VA can change the rule for Blue Water veterans, thereby denying Haas’ benefits claim.
January 2009 — The Supreme Court refuses to hear the Haas case.
April and November 2009 — The Board of Veterans’ Appeals again rules that Da Nang Harbor is an inland waterway, and Blue Water veterans who served there should receive benefits.
2010 — The VA continues to claim Da Nang is not an inland waterway.
March 2011 — Japan earthquake and tsunami. The Navy concludes the USS Ronald Reagan, a ship nearly 100 miles off the coast of Japan, was exposed to “a month’s worth of radiation in just one hour.”
May 2011 — The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science study says it is plausible that Blue Water veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.
Summer 2011 — Retired Adm. Edward Straw testifies before Congress, arguing that the USS Reagan incident is similar to what happened with Agent Orange and Navy ships off the Vietnam coast.
September 2011 — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduce the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011.


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