Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vietnam Blue-Water Sailors Out of Luck?

According to an article  in the New York Times there is not enough data available to determine
if sailors who served on deep water ships(or blue-water sailors) during the Vietnam War were
exposed to Agent Orange.

A report released Friday by the Institute of Medicine, which took 112 pages, reached this conclusion.

This is very sad news for those who served aboard the large ships that did not always enter
coastal waters of Vietnam. It also would appear highly unlikely that the Department of Veteran
Affairs will establish rules to make it easier for these Navy veterans to receive benefits for any
of the diseases linked to Agent Orange.

Many are asking for legislation to expand coverage of benefits and make it just as easy for these
deep water sailors to  receive health care and disability payments as it is for infantrymen who
were exposed to Agent Orange.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who has sponsored legislation to help the blue-water veterans,
said the new report did not disprove the possibility that deep-sea sailors were sickened by Agent
Orange during Vietnam.

"This report does not invalidate the claims of thousands of blue-water Navy veterans who are
still suffering from the same illnesses as those who served ashore in Vietnam," the senator said
in a statement.

It has been estimated that as many as 800,000 military members were exposed to Agent Orange
even if they never set foot on Vietnam soil.

Since 1991 the government has presumed that Vietnam veterans with certain diseases were exposed
to Agent Orange, making them eligible for health care and disability payments. But then in 2002
the VA decided it would apply only to those who had actually been in Vietnam.

A federal court upheld that decision which basically left out sailors that served on large ships
like aircraft carriers which were in the deep water and further from Vietnam shores. So called
brown-water sailors who served on smaller boats that operated on inland waters are still
eligible for those benefits.

Agent Orange contains one of the most toxic forms of dioxin, and has been linked to
some cancers, and was the most used herbicide in Vietnam.

So another injustice is perpetrated upon our brave veterans. Will it ever end?

Contact your elected officials, tell them to include these blue-water sailors, and marines who
even though they did not enter Vietnam, or it's coastal waters.

Equal treatment and rights for all veterans is something our country must bring about. It is our
duty to those who served, no matter where or when. Justice must be served. Our veterans
deserve nothing less.

Jerald Terwilliger
National Chairman
American Cold War Veterans
"We Remember"

---------------- "And so the greatest of American triumphs... became a peculiarly joyless victory. We had won the Cold War, but there would be no parades." -- Robert M. Gates, 1996