Published in ther York (PA) Dispatch, March 2, 2016
Congressional House Bill HR-969 and Senate Bill S.681, both titled The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Act are held up in the Veterans Affairs Committee because no dollar amount has been assigned, the cost to provide proper Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.
Without a dollar amount assigned to these bills nothing will happen to provide VA benefits to veterans who are sick from exposure to Agent Orange, a cancer-causing chemical used during the war.
There are 301 members of Congress and 37 members of Senate in favor of this legislation. This is well over the numbers of both houses needed to send the bills to the floor for a vote. This cannot happen without a dollar amount assigned.
The VA is attempting to stop passage of these bills. The VA's job and obligation is to help veterans in need, not hinder their obligation as set forth by law. The committees of both legislative houses may have to appeal to the Court of Appeals in DC to stop the VA from blocking any action on these bilsl
America is a free and sovereign nation. As such, we take on the selfless obligation to help other countries in need. This is well and good, it is a part of what America is about.
However, what about our veterans who fight the battles to keep America free? Many come home sick and broken in need of help. When it comes to special veteran groups like the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam, the VA does not recognize them. Legislation must be passed to force the VA to care for this group of war veterans.
John J. Bury, U.S. Navy retired, Vietnam War Veteran
Editor’s Note: Blue Water Veterans have been fighting the VA for recognition for more than a decade. They were initially recognized under the Agent Orange Act of 1991 but the VA changed its interpretation of their right to coverage in the early 2000s.