Friday, March 4, 2016

Navy Veterans Want Navy to Fight For Them After Agent Orange Struck

Sick Navy vets hunt for decades-old records to prove they should get Agent Orange benefits 
The Virginian-Pilot
By Mike Hixenbaugh
Charles Ornstein
Terry Parris Jr.
ProPublica
1 hr ago

“It's hell,” said Ed Marciniak, of Pensacola, Fla., who served aboard the Norfolk-based USS Jamestown during the war. “The Navy should be going to the VA and telling them, ‘This is how people got aboard the ship, this is where they got off, this is how they operated.’ Instead, they put that burden on old, sick, dying veterans, or worse – their widows.”
During the Vietnam War, hundreds of U.S. Navy ships crossed into Vietnam's rivers or sent crew members ashore, possibly exposing their sailors to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. But more than 40 years after the war’s end, the U.S. government doesn't have a full accounting of which ships traveled where, adding hurdles and delays for sick Navy veterans seeking compensation.

The Navy could find out where each of its ships operated during the war, but it hasn’t. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs says it won’t either, instead choosing to research ship locations on a case-by-case basis, an extra step that veterans say can add months – even years – to an already cumbersome claims process. Bills that would have forced the Navy to create a comprehensive list have failed in Congress.

Some 2.6 million Vietnam veterans are thought to have been exposed to – and possibly harmed by – Agent Orange, which the U.S. military used to defoliate dense forests, making it easier to spot enemy troops. But vets are only eligible for VA compensation if they went on land – earning a status called “boots on the ground” – or if their ships entered Vietnam’s rivers, however briefly.
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