Never Forget Our Most Sacred Obligations

Never Forget Our Most Sacred Obligations

A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. Wikimedia Commons Stephen Whitehead is National Commander for Disabled American Veterans . On October 5, 2014, the President, bipartisan members of Congress, veteran leaders and hundreds of veterans dedicated the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. Within eyeshot of the U.S. Capitol, the President and other speakers talked about the continuing cost of war for those who returned with visible and invisible injuries, most permanently changed, and our sacred obligations to them. But now, just five years after establishing this national monument symbolizing the importance of caring for those who served, we find there are still severely disabled veterans who are being forgotten—or worse, ignored—by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In June, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) hailed the enactment of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act , which made veterans who served in waters offshore of Vietnam eligible for health care benefits for conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure. Within days, however, the VA issued a blanket stay on all Blue Water Navy claims until January 1, 2020, further delaying decisions on these claims and effectively robbing veterans of this long-awaited victory. A federal appeals court ruling earlier this year ( Procopio v. Wilkie ) had ordered VA to begin granting Agent Orange-related benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans who served within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam, but as a result of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s directive, those veterans are now being forced unnecessarily to continue waiting. These veterans have already spent decades waiting for recognition that they too were exposed to Agent Orange and suffered negative health consequences as a result. Many of them are gravely ill, […]

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