To the Editor:
A congressional bill, HR-543, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, introduced Feb. 6 by Rep. Christopher P. Gibson (NY-19), is stuck in committee.
To date only 148 members of Congress have co-sponsored this bill. The bill if passed would recognize Navy and Marines who served at sea for Veterans Administration benefits including compensation. What is wrong with Congress when it comes to our veterans? Is Congress broken or do they just not care?
As it stands now, the VA only recognizes one disease for Blue Water Navy, Lymphoma non-Hodgkin’s of the approximately 12 non-cancerous and 38 cancerous diseases.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 afforded VA benefits including compensation to 534,000 Navy and Marine veterans. In 2002 the VA stopped awarding benefits to this group of veterans. There are approximately 170,000 of these veterans known to still be living.
If a Navy or Marine Vietnam veteran can not prove boots on ground they would be denied. At sea in the territorial waters of Vietnam Navy and Marines did come in contact with the herbicide agent orange dioxin in their drinking water and mists of the herbicide as it drifted out to sea has been linked to harmful life threatening health effects.
Vietnam veterans need help, many suffer today with no resolve. The voice of the American people can help. Call, write, e-mail your members of the U.S. Congress, urge them to co-sponsor the Bill and pass legislation of HR-543.
John J. Bury, US Navy, retired
Vietnam War veteran