Letter: VA snubs its nose at Congress

Raymond G. Melninkaitis is a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran who is an advocate for changing a decision made under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. He submitted the following correspondence.

To the editor,

An open letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

By now my name should be somewhat familiar, or at least with your staff. I’m wondering why there is such an uproar to finally correct the injustice the DVA has perpetrated on these service men and women, yet I don’t see anything on the agenda to deal with the issue. There is a bill in the wings that just sits there waiting to be pressed into action. Rhetoric does not save lives. Are you waiting for the House to act? Can the Senate take the initiative and offer up its bill for a vote? Every day we lose about 350 veterans who may have needed assistance due to herbicide and or chemical exposure. Rather than the usual form letter that has nothing to do with the issue, could I get a straight up answer? Thank you.

Here’s the reply:

Senator Blumenthal supports the view that current VA policy presents excessive obstacles for Blue Water Navy veterans seeking care and benefits for health conditions caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while serving aboard Navy ships in Vietnam.

Most recently, Senator Blumenthal led a bi-partisan group of senators in a letter to the Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs. In their letter they urged VA to reconsider unnecessary burdens on Blue Water Navy Veterans. The Secretary has the authority to grant the presumption of service-connected disability which would offer the same benefits as the legislation you mentioned. In their letter they asked the Secretary to exercise it. I’ve attached the letter to this email.

And my rebuttal:

Well as you can see the letter has fallen on deaf ears. After 14 years of fighting to regain the right of presumption we are still there, back in 2002 The VA snubs its nose at Congress and nothing happens. The Congress is quick to criticize the VA for not firing enough people, so, I’ll criticize Congress for not acting through legislation. The Congress can block the actions of a president, yet they can’t get a department head to rescind a morally and scientifically wrong done to 120,000 veterans? The Congress gives away 100s of billions of dollars to foreign governments that kill our citizens, their citizens, and leave lots of our men veterans, not all living veterans. I know Senator Blumenthal has the guts to go forward, but he can’t go it alone. If you can, please have this read into the committee minutes. Rest assured, I do not stand alone.

Raymond G. Melninkaitis

Beacon Falls

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