|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|President’s Report, May/June 2021|
Last year the world was attacked by an unseen enemy more deadly than any found on a battlefield. As a result, we lost an entire year in which normal routines were disrupted. Thankfully, the incredible introduction of effective vaccines, combined with a significant effort to get people vaccinated, may soon return us to normal life. Although this may not happen quickly enough to allow us to participate fully in Memorial Day activities this year, I urge everyone to take a moment to remember those lost in all our wars and also those lost to COVID-19.
Since March of last year the number of COVID-19 deaths has exceeded the number of those who died in World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War combined. Unfortunately, many of those who succumbed to the virus were veterans of those wars. All must be remembered.
Yes, Virginia, there will be an in-person VVA National Convention. After considering the progress noted above, the Board of Directors has voted to re-schedule the Convention for November 2-6. In this issue of The Veteran the Convention Committees have outlined their operations. It will be the same format that we have become familiar with, but please take note of the revised deadlines for delegate registration and candidate announcements. Please do not wait to the last minute to send in your delegate registrations and hotel reservations, and I suggest that you not wait too long to make flight arrangements. Given the cutback in flights you may have a hard time getting one. I suggest you talk to a travel agent or the airlines soon. Mariann and I look forward to seeing you in Greensboro.
TOXIC EXPOSURE AND CONGRESS
In the last issue I reported that during our annual congressional testimony VVA was not the only veterans organization to highlight its concerns about the effects of exposure to toxic substances on America’s military from the Vietnam War to the present day. I was pleasantly surprised to learn then that both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees had identified toxic exposure as their highest priority. Now both the House and Senate committees are moving at breakneck speed to introduce legislation to deal with these long-standing issues.
On April 28 the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee held a hearing on more than twenty bills, half of which were about toxic exposure. Proposed legislation covers items that have been languishing in Congress for many years. For example, S.437 focuses on burn pits. S.454 would care for veterans who served in K2, the former Russian Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan that was horribly polluted. S.565, the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, will cover veterans who cleaned up the Enewetak Atoll used for atomic testing. S.657 would add Thailand to the Agent Orange-affected areas during the Vietnam War. S.810 would add hypertension as a presumptive disease for Vietnam veterans. Two bills, S.927 and S.952, will deal with those exposed to burn pits.
It is unclear which bills will be approved. Some may get merged into an omnibus bill. Please keep an eye out for our Government Affairs alerts to keep up with the legislative activity.
I am concerned that, while these are great legislative proposals, none deals with VVA’s efforts to get the VA to consider the health impact of toxic exposures on the multi-generational progeny of veterans.
OTHER ISSUES OF CONCERN
Other bills not related to toxic exposure also caught my eye. One important bill, S.89, would require the VA Secretary to secure medical opinions for veterans with service-connected disabilities who die from COVID-19 to determine if those disabilities were the principal or a contributory cause of death. We have learned of several incidents of spouses or dependents getting denied for DIC because the VA ascribed the veteran’s death solely to the virus. I have been in contact with the National Association of Medical Examiners and the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners for help in dealing with this issue.
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