Letter: Treatment of veterans inequitable

To the editor,

Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to numerous health problems, including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, prostate cancer, Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and other issues. In 1991, legislation was enacted that empowered the secretary of veterans affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled Vietnam veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions.

However, the VA limited the authority of the act to only those veterans who could provide orders for “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims with the VA to restore their benefits, which are then decided on a case-by-case basis. After 40 years the evidence needed for these veterans to obtain benefits no longer exists. Please help correct this inequity.

I urge you, the public, to communicate to Representative Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that HR 543, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, now has 219 co-sponsors. This is enough for a discharge petition to force it to the House floor. This would be an embarrassing situation to this committee. After 14 years of being disenfranchised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Blue Water Navy deserves its day on the House floor for a vote.

With the fiasco facing this nation with the deaths of veterans in care of the DVA, let’s not add to the count. Please ask Representative Miller to bring forth this bill for a full vote of the House.

Raymond Melninkaitis

Beacon Falls