Letter: Benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans should be restored

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To the editor,

Recently, I contacted the offices of U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy with a question, whether they supported HR299. They both declared that veterans and military should be given total care, as they are today’s protection of the nation’s democracy.

Senate Bill SR 299: “The restoration of presumptive rights to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans exposure to Agent Orange,” is before the Senate. The House of Representatives passed the bill unanimously. The Senate has 52 members as cosponsors for passage of that bill. Both are co-sponsors of this bill.

Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans have had their rights to treatment for diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure denied. Originally, all who served in Vietnam, including the U.S. Navy Vietnam veterans, were granted presumptive rights. Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans then had their rights taken away. A requirement that “boots on the ground” was made to have presumptive rights. With presumptive rights, any service member that served or traveled in Vietnam is considered to have that exposure.

Blue Water Navy veterans continue their fight for inclusion but are continually denied those rights, not because Congress does not believe there was exposure for the Blue Water veterans, but because Congress cannot figure how to fund the additional claims. Blue Water Navy veterans are overdue and these benefits should be restored.  Now this Bill is being held up in the Senate after being passed by the House of Representatives unanimously. Connecticut citizens should press our senators to convey their disappointment of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to bring this issue to a vote.

Ray Melninkaitis

Beacon Falls

The writer is a U.S. Navy veteran, who served during the Vietnam War, and a member of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association.