Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans – Why Are Their Benefits On Hold?
Earlier this year, Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 AFTER the veterans won their fight for benefits in federal court. The President signed the legislation. The VA has put a “stay” on those benefits until January 1, 2020 (Military.com).
There may be at least 90,000 out of 420,000 to 560,000 Vietnam Veterans that could be eligible for Blue Water Navy benefits. When President Trump signed the legislation in June, everyone thought it was a major victory. But the Secretary of the VA has placed a “stay” on those benefits until next year…and many of the service members may not have that long left to wait.
The Blue Water Navy encompasses those veterans who served on ships along the coast of Vietnam within 12 miles of the open ocean, and includes not just Navy, but Marines, Coast Guard and Army. Agent Orange didn’t just kill vegetation, it caused a plethora of medical issues for those exposed to it: chronic B-cell leukemias, Hodgkins lymphoma, eyesight loss, prostate cancer and respiratory cancers, Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, peripheral neuropathy, even birth defects in children, and other diseases. The chemicals were sprayed from helicopters or planes directly onto their heads with no protection at all during their service.
It took decades for the VA to accept Agent Orange as a cause for those diseases, and even longer for the Blue Water veterans to obtain any benefits. But now the benefits are on hold. The greatest question is, will the veterans live to see them? According to Hannibal.net, some gave up and killed themselves when they were denied benefits before the new law went into effect.
According to Stripes,
Vietnam veteran Bobby Daniels has between 24 to 32 months to live, and he’s using some of those to ensure that his wife receives the benefits she’s owed when he’s gone…
…Daniels has been attempting to have the VA recognize his Agent Orange exposure so his wife can receive survivor’s benefits, known as disability and indemnity compensation, when he dies. The couple has taken a second mortgage on their home to pay for his medical expenses, he said.
They celebrated it as a victory when Trump signed the new law in June. Then, with Wilkie’s announcement, Daniels “felt like somebody sledgehammered me in the mouth.”
“My wife has been by my side for 56 years. We struggle through tough times together,” Daniels said. “My biggest fear now is leaving her behind to struggle through tough times alone.”
The Veterans of Foreign Waters, Disabled American Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America traveled to Washington on Tuesday to ask the President to lift the hold on benefits. Earlier on Tuesday, nine veterans groups sent a letter to Trump asking to meet with them regarding the issue. Senator Jon Tester (R-MT) and Rep Mark Takano (D-CA) were in attendance at the gathering.
VA Secretary Wilkie imposed the stay on benefits in an attempt to not cause problems for the other veterans needing benefits.
“We are working to ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water veteran community and minimize the impact on all veterans filing for disability compensation.” Robert Wilkie, VA Secretary
The problem with any single payer healthcare system- there are never enough people to process everything. There still should be no reason why they can’t begin processing at least some of the claims now. That is, if they process them correctly and don’t throw them in the dumpster.
The groups are hoping the President Trump will order the claims be processed immediately.
Featured photo: USS George Washington (CVN73), off southern coast of Vietnam in South China Sea. Via Vietnam Veteran news