|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|President’s Message, September/October 2021|
Convention in the Age of Coronavirus
For the first time since our Founding Convention in 1983, the Twentieth National Convention will be held in November from the 2nd to the 6th. This will be our first national meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. Everything is in flux so it is not clear what the final rules of attendance will be. The Convention Planning Committee will keep us informed as we get closer to the date.
I hope that everyone has gotten their vaccinations. In fact, some of us may be eligible for a booster shot. If you fall into this category, we advise you and your companions to get them. For whatever reason, if you are not vaccinated, you may be required to get tested. Whether or not we will be required to wear masks inside is up in the air. As we get closer to the Convention, we will keep everyone informed about the local rules. The variants of the coronavirus are very deadly, so please take all precautions seriously.
TOXIC EXPOSURE IN THE MILITARY
2021 has become the year for dealing with toxic exposure in the military. The House and Senate are both working on similar bills that eventually will be merged into one giant piece of legislation to deal with every toxic exposure issue, including atomic testing and accident sites, Agent Orange in Vietnam and elsewhere, burn pits, and other exposures overseas and at home. We hope to have more detailed information available on the final bill by the time we get to Greensboro.
PASSING THE TORCH
Our work on behalf of veterans has extended beyond our peers who served in the Vietnam War. Most recently, we helped Post-9/11 veterans get assistance in identifying the residual effects of burn pits and other exposures and ensured that they receive the health and education benefits that were denied to us. Our success is clear from this statistic: More than 70 percent of Post-9/11 veterans have a college degree or higher. This is a startling success for the present-day GI Bill. However, this still leaves a significant number of Post-9/11 veterans with wounds, PTSD, and illnesses related to toxic substances in need of assistance.
We can rightfully be proud of our efforts, but are we done?
THE FUTURE OF VVA
The effects of PTSD and Agent Orange and old age have hindered our ability to continue our efforts on behalf of veterans and their families. Other issues also have had an impact. After the forced cutback of our staff last year because of the economic impact of the pandemic, and a key retirement, we only have three employees on our national staff who are Vietnam-era veterans: Artie Shelton, M.D., the Director of the Veterans Health Council; Wes Guidry, our Meeting Planner: and Marc Leepson, the Arts Editor and senior writer for The Veteran.
If we are to live up to our motto, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,” we must prepare for a transition. The last Convention discussed two possible routes. One resolution made it simple: Change VVA’s name, change our membership to include those who followed us, and continue our existing operations. Another resolution charged the leadership to identify or create a new veterans organization with which we could enter into an agreement to assume our operations, particularly the veterans benefits and government affairs programs.
Both resolutions were rejected. However, Resolution GA-21 was approved, which tasked the Officers and Board with investigating the feasibility of creating a new organization with a new name. A full report on the results of our investigation is being prepared that will be presented to the delegates at the Convention.
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