Washington, D.C.- House veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Democratic member Bob Filner (D-CA) announced the introduction of the Agent Orange Equity Act, H.R. 812, a bill that would restore equity to all Vietnam Veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange.
“We owe it to our veterans to fulfill the promises made to them as a result of their service,” said Mr. Filner. “If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would. And as a country at war, we must prove that we will be there for all of our veterans, no matter where they serve. The courts have turned their backs on our veterans on this issue, but I believe this Congress should not allow our veterans to be cheated of benefits they have earned and deserve.”
H.R. 812 would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War Veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure. In order to try to gain a better military vantage point, Agent Orange, which we now know is a highly toxic cocktail of herbicide agents, was widely sprayed for defoliation and crop reduction purposes all over the Vietnam War Battlefield, as well as on borders and other areas of neighboring nations.
Currently,the VA requires Vietnam Veterans to prove a “foot on land” (“boots on ground”) occurrence in order to qualify for the presumption of service-connection for related illnesses afforded under current law. This issue has been the subject of much litigation and on May 8, 2008 the Federal Circuit of Appeals upheld the VA`s narrow interpretation and the Supreme Court denied certiorari essentially affirming this ruling. However, Congress clearly did not intend to exclude these veterans from compensation based on arbitrary geographic line drawing by the VA. Many stakeholders agree.
H.R. 812 is intended to clarify the law so that Blue Water veterans and every service member awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. “Time is running out for these veterans,” concluded Mr. Filner. “Many are dying from their Agent Orange related diseases, uncompensated for their sacrifice. There is still a chance for America to meet its obligation to these noble veterans.”
The excessive use of Agent Orange in Vietnam was compounded by 2 factors that most people, especially our politicians have now and always have chosen to overlook or quite seriously ignore. Agent Orange is a highly concentrated herbicide. It should have been diluted many, many times before being sprayed. Also the excessive overuse of Agent Orange has been reported and documented many times. To say a veteran was not exposed to Agent Orange because he was stationed on a ship at sea sometimes miles from shore, or airmen were not exposed because they were in the air is pure politician double talk. Agent Orange was used to the point of total saturation in most places. Wind and rain spread Agent Orange in such a fashion that all you had to do was breathe and you were exposed.
Will H.R. 812 actually do what it was intended to do? Hopefully, YES.
***More Ships Added to the Veterans Administration`s Vietnam Ship List***
The VA has updated the list of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard Ships that operated in Vietnam, adding 47 more vessels and expanding information for others. The list can help Vietnam-era Veterans find out if they qualify for presumption of Agent Orange exposure when seeking VA disability compensation for herbicide-related diseases. Visit the Agent Orange homepage to learn more about Agent Orange:
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