John , Blue Water Navy Advocate-who has done SO MUCH on this issue-( former President of BWNVVA)
is attempting to get his article here published in a newspaper and wanted me to post it here at hadit. Unfortunately there are very few news outlets interested in issues like this which ,in my opinion, should be national news.
John left his phone number in the article and I hope some of you have comments here on this, that I could pass on to him:
Leaving the Carrier Sailors Behind
Recent House action on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR-299) will move that legislation out of Committee and onto the Floor for a vote. The Bill has taken over 11 years of hard work by many advocates and supporters. But a serious shortcoming in the Bill requires at least a name change because this legislation will not cover all Blue Water Navy (BWN) sailors. It is currently limited to men on ships that traveled inside the Territorial Seas, defined as 12 miles from Baseline. The only ships that did not enter the Territorial Seas during every WESTPAC Cruise were aircraft carriers with thousands of sailors aboard.
Some individuals have insisted that no one is being abandoned because the carrier sailors, not specifically named in the expansion of presumptive coverage for herbicide exposure, have a way to file for their VA benefits under the provisions of Direct Exposure. But this suggestion to file a disability claim under the rules of Direct Exposure is an absurd idea. Filing under Direct Exposure was available to all BWN veterans since the VA took this group’s presumptive exposure rights away in 2002. It was precisely the difficulties of winning a claim under a Direct Exposure filing that sent the BWN Association up in arms and started the movement over a decade ago to re-establish presumptive exposure benefits through legislation and litigation. Advocates for Blue Water Navy veterans have fought for the past decade to find a better option than filing for Direct Exposure, so why is this method now good enough for the carrier sailors who served within the Theater of Combat but not within the Territorial Seas? There have been less than a dozen BWN disability claims that have ever won approval under the restrictions of the Direct Exposure rules since the inception of the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
Twenty-two aircraft carriers served in the Theater of Combat of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. In total, these 22 aircraft carriers spent more than 550 months in the waters of the Vietnam Combat Zone and each month of their activities is recorded in a Deck Log. To date, 88% of the available Deck Logs have been carefully analyzed. So far, only 50 occasions have been found when a specific carrier was in the Territorial Seas of Vietnam. The remainder of the time, the carriers were all in locations other than the narrow band of water identified as the Territorial Seas.
Approximately 20% of the members of the U.S. 7th Fleet served on the carriers. Using numbers currently associated with naval personnel having served in the Combat Zone of Vietnam, this represents more than 34,000 Vietnam carrier veterans who will not be represented in the Blue Water Navy legislation and subsequently will not be eligible for the associated benefits even though the carriers were subjected to Agent Orange contamination to a possibly greater extent than other ships. Ironically, these 34,000 carrier sailors are included in the 174,500 BWN veterans that are factored into the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimates for the legislation, but they are not identified in the language of the Bill as veterans who will benefit from HR-299’s passage.
Because paying for these benefits has been the key hold-up for these past 11 years, it is ludicrous that these carrier sailors are now paid for, but due to an oversight in wording, they will still not get their VA disability benefits like other sailors who served offshore Vietnam. A title like “The Close-In Naval Support Ship Veterans of Vietnam Act” is a much more appropriate name for HR-299. The current title and wording erroneously preclude 20% of BWN veterans from obtaining the critically needed benefits. The wording of HR-299 needs to be changed to include sailors in the entire Theater of Combat before another terrible injustice befalls some members of the Blue Water Navy.