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VFW Denounces Lone GOP Senator Holding Up Bill For 'Blue Water' Navy Vietnam Vets
The Veterans of Foreign Wars didn't mince words in its denunciation of Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday, who the group said had "obstructed" a bill for offshore Navy Vietnam Veterans suffering from illnesses stemming from Agent Orange exposure.
"My disappointment with Senator Enzi's obstruction is beyond measure, because what he did was fail to take care of forgotten veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, and he failed to take care of their children who sadly inherited a toxic legacy," VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement.
"The VFW nor its members will forget this."
The bill, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, or H.R. 299, would extend eligibility for health care and disability benefits to service members who served aboard ships off the Vietnam coast. It had received backing from the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America, which said in a joint statement in September that it provides "long-delayed justice" to aging veterans who "continue to suffer and die from illnesses that have already been legally and scientifically linked to Agent Orange exposure."
The bill passed the House 382-0 in June, but when it came up for unanimous consent in the Senate, Enzi raised his objection.
“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA. They’re having a lot of problems, anyway," Enzi said, according to Stars & Stripes.
“There’s clearly more work to do just on figuring out the spending and administration of this and the deficit impacts this bill will have."
The VFW, however, wasn't buying the cost argument: "If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded, ill or injured," Lawrence said in his statement.
In its joint statement, the veterans' groups cited a 2016 report from The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), which said, "it is generally acknowledged that estuarine waters became contaminated with Herbicides and dioxin as a result of shoreline spraying and runoff from spraying on land, particularly in heavily sprayed areas that experienced frequent flooding" while adding that there was no scientific basis for discriminating between veterans exposed to the toxin on land or at sea.
And as ProPublica wrote in 2015:
The chemicals — whether from runoff, leakage or dumping — could have ended up in the rivers and harbors, which flowed out to U.S. ships at sea. The Navy ships sucked in seawater and distilled it for use, possibly exposing thousands of sailors to the chemical dioxin.
A 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine found that this process not only would have left the chemical in desalinated water, but would have enriched it by 10 times. Smith says while he doesn’t think he came into direct contact with Agent Orange like many ground troops and Vietnamese, he believes that he and his fellow sailors drank and showered in contaminated water.
Although Vietnam veterans who served on land during the war are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, about 52,000 served offshore and are not currently eligible for that presumption. The Congressional Budget Office estimated roughly 30,000 of those veterans were still alive and, if the bill passed, would be eligible for disability compensation and survivors' benefits would be given to their families, costing the government about $1.1 billion over the next 10 years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still save the bill if he schedules a vote before the 115th Congress finishes out its term within the next few days. The next Congress will have to start from scratch if it doesn't pass this year.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.
In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.
A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.
Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.
So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.