SOME NAVY VETERANS HAVE LITTLE TO BE
THANKFUL FOR ON THANKSGIVING – “BLUE WATER
NAVY” SAILORS WHO SERVED IN VIETNAM STILL
RULED INELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS – U.S, COURT OF
APPEALS IN A 2-TO-1 VOTE DISMISSES SUIT BROUGHT
BY MILITARY VETERANS ADVOCACY – EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR (CDR JOHN B. WELLS) VOWS “WE INTEND
TO KEEP FIGHTING UNTIL WE WIN.”
© 2017 MilitaryCorruption.com
With significant fanfare, President Donald J. Trump declared Nov. 2017 as the National Veterans and Military Families Month. Despite the recognition, the proclamation rings hollow for 90,000 veterans of the Vietnam war. These veterans are known colloquially as “Blue Water Navy” veterans, because they operated on ships in the bays, harbors and offshore waters rather than internal rivers. Evidence shows that they were exposed to Agent Orange contamination via wind drift and their drinking water. In 2002, the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled them ineligible for benefits, since they did not touch land.
On this Thanksgiving 2017, these veterans had their hopes for recognition and benefits dashed by both Congress and the courts.
It was Nov. 2, the House Veterans Affairs Committee met to consider the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. This bill was supported by 318 co-sponsors from both parties and would have restored benefits to those who served in the bays, harbors and terminal seas of South Vietnam. Partisan bickering over the funding resulted in the bill being tabled without a vote.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit voted Nov, 16 in a 2-to-1 decision to dismiss a suit brought by Military Veterans Advocacy on behalf of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. The court found that they lacked jurisdiction to review the VA’s exclusionary policy.
CDR JOHN B. WELLS (USN Ret.) LEADS FIGHT
Military Veterans Advocacy Executive Director CDR John B. Wells (USN, Ret.) spearheaded both the legislative and judicial efforts.
“We are not giving up,” Wells said. “We intend to press forward on all fronts. We are considering a petition for rehearing and/or rehearing by the full court, and a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court is also in the cards.”
Wells also noted another case is pending in the federal circuit that does not have the judicial impediment. “We only have to win one,” Wells said. “We intend to keep fighting until we win. The key is to get past the procedural hurdles so that the court can consider the merits of the case.”
HOW THEY WERE EXPOSED TO DIOXIN
The Blue Water Navy Veterans were exposed via shipboard distillation systems that converted salt water into drinking water. The Agent Orange was mixed with petroleum that floated to areas where Navy ships were anchored or on patrol, according to studies by the University of Queensland and the American Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine). The distillation process did not remove the dioxin, but actually enriched it.
These deserving veterans were heartened by recent support from Veterans Affairs Secretary David M. Shulkin, a medical doctor. In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Oct. 24, Shulkin promised to work with Congress to provide relief to the long-suffering Navy veterans in response to a question from committee chairman Phil Roe, R-TN, Shulkin said, “I am absolutely committed to working with you and the rest of the committee to bring this to a resolution. Those veterans shouldn’t have to wait any longer.”
Wells will be returning to Washington in December, when he expects to meet with congressional officers in an attempt to resolve the legislative process.
“Congress and the VA Secretary want to restore these benefits,” Wells said. “We cannot let funding issues continue to deprive these veterans of their benefits.”