|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|President’s Message, July/August 2021|
The Beginning of the End of COVID
After 15 months of COVID-19 travel and activity restrictions, the Officers were finally able to meet at our headquarters in late May. We began the week by attending the Memorial Day ceremonies at The Wall. This was to be an invitation-only event, but the public was invited at the last minute. We did the wreath laying and heard speeches from the two honorees, the author and Vietnam veteran Karl Marlantes (who received VVA’s Excellence in the Arts Award at the 2012 Leadership Conference) and Nancy George Wilson, a former Army nurse who served on the U.S.S. Repose (’68-’69). I had the privilege of leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
The next day we got together in the office. We finally got to meet some of the new staffers: Alex Thompson, our new assistant for the officers; Matt Simmons, our new receptionist; and Retired Army Lt. Col. Patricia Harris, our new general counsel. We then held marathon meetings over three days to catch up with all the staff. We are planning to bring most of the staff back into the office soon.
COVID-19 has taken more than 600,000 of our friends and neighbors. Many were veterans. As a result, we have learned about some problems with spouses receiving Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Unfortunately, in many instances the death certificate only notes that the cause of death was COVID-19. However, the real cause of death was often the service-connected illness. But if it is not noted on the death certificate, the VA can deny the spouse’s DIC claim
In conversations with leaders of the National Association of Medical Examiners and the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners we learned that there is space on an official death certificate for additional causes of death. If you know any spouse or dependent who has been denied DIC because of an inadequate death certificate, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
As noted in the last Veteran, we will be holding an in-person VVA National Convention on November 2-6 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Please read the Convention Committee reports in this issue, and note the revised deadlines for delegate registration. Do not wait to the last minute to send in your delegate information and hotel reservations, and I suggest you not wait too long to make your flight arrangements. Some flights have been cut back, but the airlines are beginning to gear up and things may improve by the end of the summer. Mariann and I look forward to seeing many of you in Greensboro.
TOXIC EXPOSURE AND CONGRESS
As I reported in the last issue, VVA’s efforts since 1979 to highlight our concerns about the effects of exposure to toxic substances on America’s military from the Vietnam War to the present day were taken seriously by the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Two important pieces of legislation are working their way through those committees.
The Senate bill is called the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) Act of 2021. The House bill is the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) of 2021.
Both are exceptionally large and encompass several issues facing Post-9/11 veterans. The Senate bill has 13 presumptions, while the House bill has 23. Additionally, each bill has language regarding Agent Orange exposure in Thailand, Guam, American Samoa, Laos, and Cambodia. Most importantly for VVA members, both bills add AO presumptions for hypertension and MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance).
Given the complex nature of these bills, it will be a while before the House and Senate complete work on them. Then the bills will have to be brought to conference to reconcile any differences. The VVA staff and our committees have begun to review these proposed laws, and we have concerns about some language in them. For example, each would enable the VA to remove previously approved presumptions.
We will keep you informed as Congress proceeds on these bills. This will be a major and important battle for us. They seem to be going forward in a bipartisan manner, so give your Senators and Representatives a heads-up that we want these bills passed.
Dr. Artie Shelton says: “All VVA members and their spouses should have been vaccinated by now.” If not, get your shots. Also, children 12 and older can now be vaccinated, so encourage your grandchildren to do so.
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