I have to say that this trip was one of the most interesting trips I have been on. Every trip I always learn new things.The priority of the week was the Court hearing on the Stay that was held on Friday, November 8, 2019. I will get to that later.
We started up the week with some meetings with the working the House side of Congress and finished up the last two days on the Senate side. I won’t go into the exact meeting but I will explain what was in the briefings.
The First item we would cover is HR1713, The Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Islands Relief Act. Now some members may feel that this isn’t that will help Blue Water Navy Veterans and they would be wrong. By passing this Bill it will help cover others ships that stopped in Guam, like Carriers. Not only that it will cover other Veterans that served on Guam such as Marines, Air Force and Army. Not only does it cover Guam it covers American Samoa, The Northern Mariana, and Johnston Atoll. Many Veterans will be covered.
The Second item we briefed on is a Bill that Military Veterans Advocacy is presenting. The Bill is referred to as the Armed Forces Toxic Exposure Act. This bill will help identify problems in advance. This is modeled after the same process that the Austrialians used to discover that Blue Water Navy Veterans were 37% more likely to suffer from cancer than their counterparts that served boots on the ground. More information will be coming out as the Bill is more formized.
The Third Item we briefed is the problem that exists with the VA prescribing volaile psychotropic medications such as benzodiazepines. This is a major problem with some veterans. These drugs can cause aggressive and even physically and violent behaviors.
The Fourth item was Litigation that MVA is working on. Procopio v. Wilkie was the main item. The hearing on it was held on Friday, which we attended. More later.
The Fifth Item was new Litigation referred to as Injunctive Relief to Prevent VA disclosure of medical information without express authorization. You may have received a letter a couple of weeks ago the VA may of sent you a letter letting you know that unless you opt out by filling out a form and taking it to the VA, they may release your Medical Information to a Third party. This should concern you in many ways. I won’t go into them but it could affect you in many ways.
Some other minor items where covered.
We had up to 13 people in these meetings. In most meetings, the Blue Water Navy Veterans would explain things like why the Stay was hurting Blue Water Navy Veterans. We let them know that the VA was holding the claims of terminally ill veterans until January 1, 2020. We would also cover the fact that the VA was treating the Blue Water Navy Veterans differently than other Veterans. There is a rule in the VA manual that says that a Veterans over the age of 75 can ask for an expedited claim. But in a News release on July 5, 2019 and in the DAMA hearing they stated that for Blue Water Navy Veterans age is 85.
Now on the Stay hearing. The court got the VA to state that they WILL NOT issue a new stay after January 1, 2020. The stay the have in place will end and they will start processing claims. This is very good news. Please listen to the hearing to get a feeling on how the court felt about the VA. Now if I am not mistaken last year two of the three judges that heard this case and the case last years were not in our favor. On this case it appeared they were more on our side. Now I need to make one item clear, the case may not find in our favor due to jurisdiction reasons. But as long as the VA does start doing the claims on January 1, 2020 it is a small victory for us.
Now I must cover the merger. I am glad we are receiving good responses on it. One thing we need to do it make sure that all the Members we have now to rejoin the Association in 2020. We need your help to help all Veterans. Next year many of our Members will start receiving their claims and start to receive benefits. We are asking you to remember who helped you get those benefits. We live on donations and will die if we don’t have them.
The merger makes good sense. We need over 2000 members to become a VSO. We are near 1200 members this year in Blue Water Navy Association. In MVA, we will have sections. At this time we will have Blue Water Navy Association and the Second one will be Agent Orange Survivors of Guam. Anyone wanting to join one of those Sections will be a members of Military Veterans Advocacy. In the future we will be adding new Sections and they will be announced as we get them. Remember the more Members we have, the faster we will achieve our goal.
Col Rob Maness has replaced John Wells as Executive Director and I have replaced Rob as Chief of Staff. You may not see much change. Each Section will have it’s own Facebook Page(s) and Web Site. At this time I will still be the Executive Director/National Commander of the Blue Water Navy Association. Brian Moyer is in charge of Agent Orange Survivors of Guam.
My personal goal is to have the 2000 members by mid-year. That means a lot of work for the leadership of MVA and we are up to it as long as we have your help. If you have a suggestion for a group that wants to become a Section that can use our help, but help us as well, please let us know. I am talking about a group of Veterans that served in Iraq or Afghanistan, Air Force Veterans, Army Veterans, Coast Guard Veterans, or any other type of Veteran. The main thing is they need to be a Veterans or a Spouse of a Veteran.
I want to say something about the team we had to represent you. Lead by Col Rob Maness, we had Jim Kuiken, Freedom, Michael F Kvintus Sr, Thomas Walden, Ed Ball, Susie Belanger,
and Brian O'Callaghan. Two others that had joined us were Sandy Kvintus and Ernie Belanger. This team is fantastic.
Now I have to talk about Ernie. If you saw the Video of our March you will see Ernie playing Taps. We asked him to help and he was willing. But I have to let you know something about Ernie. As you know everything has a beginning. In the Blue Water Navy Agent Orange Case there had to be a “Patient 1”. Well Patient 1 is Ernie. The problems he had receiving his benefits caused Princess Susie to start the fight for all of us. Unfortunately Ernie may of been the first but he isn’t the last.
I want to address the issue of us becoming a registered VSO. To become a VSO we need to have over 2000 official members (dues paying) and maintain it. It would be hard for just Blue Water Navy to maintain that number. With us add more sections we should be able to do that. We will be doing it different than the VSOs out there now. While they help Veterans file their claims with the VA, they also will work with the VA and do what they can to follow the VA direction. We on the other hand would be willing to work with the VA BUT we want to make sure the VA does the job for Veterans the way they should. To give you a good example, how many of the VSO are bringing up the fact that the VA is singling out Blue Water Navy Veterans in many ways, one being that a Veteran over the age of 75 can ask for an expedited hearing on their claim, well except for a Blue Water Navy Veterans, they have to be over 85. Is that fair, I don’t think so. But no other VSO is making waves about it.
More will be coming out on our future plans. We ask that you still support us and get others to support us.
Thank You. for the support you give us.
Chief of Staff
Military Veterans Advocacy
Blue Water Navy Association.
Washington DC Trip Report:
For the first time taking a Wheelchair with my Southwest took extra good care of it. They made sure nothing happened to it. Thank you Southwest.
We started out Monday morning with a breakfast meeting between MVA and BWNA discussing the future and we feel we have a good plan set up and more of that will be coming out in the future.
The week was set up with a lot of meetings, with both Staff Members of the House and Senate and with some of the VSOs that would meet with us. .A few just couldn’t “find the time” to meet with us, but the one that did we had some very good meetings.
Monday and Tuesday was spent mostly meeting with House and Senate Offices. These meetings we let them know our displeasure of the Passing of HR299 and why we felt it was wrong. We also voices our feeling about the Stay and we requested that they check into it and see what they can do. We also explained what we would be focusing on in the future. These items include the following:
HR1713 The Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Islands Relief Act
HR 2201/S1381 Modify the presumption of service connection for Veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam Era.
S408 Veterans Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act of 2019
HR 1005 Burn Pit Veterans Revision Act
HR 1377 Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act
HR1628 Enewetak Atoll Cleanup Radiations Study Act
HR1001/S554 Family Members Access to Burn Pit Registry Act
House version of the NDAA to repeal windows tax and the Feres doctrine
We also discussed future Legislation as follows:
Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Act
Funding of Veterans Programs
Study of Incarcerated Combat Veterans on Opioid Prescriptions
We did explain the reason behind our filing the suit to Review the Blue Water Navy Stay..
Some of the VSO would meet with us, these included VFW, ROA, AL, PVA, AMVETS, VVA, Blind Vets, FRA, and AUSN. A few of these meetings were very interesting since they seem to have a problem with us and the way we have been talking about them. Rob did a fantastic job of taking control of the meeting and telling them that we all need to start working on the future and let the past stay in the past and let them know that both BWNA and MVA were not in this to take credit for what we are doing, we are here to help the Veterans. I personally feel that we need to make sure as many people give the credit to the Big 6 VSOs for HR299 and along with that all the problems it is and will be causing in the future. They didn’t want to listen to us in the past, maybe they will think twice about listening to us in the future.
One of the brightest moments that Mike K, Ed Ball, and we had was one evening after the meetings we decide to go to Vietnam Veterans Wall. I can’t tell you the feeling that gives you being there.
One of the things I found interesting while visiting the VSOs office. While they may have been in ADA compliance, it was just barely. I even had one admit to me they didn’t feel they were in compliance. You have no idea the challenges I, excuse me WE have when we are going into some of the House Offices with a WheelChair. These buildings were not made for a Wheelchair. There is one bad spot where we have to go a half a floor, we end up taking this elevator to do it. If it wasn’t for the Wheelchair we could walk up these steps. Another bad place is when we go between two buildings and there is a tram. I can’t get into the tram so I just speed away and meet everyone on the other side. Sometimes they will say they walk and I to insist they get in the tram. I keep telling everyone to make it easy and themselves but they all make sure we stay together. Now that is a team.
One thing we did differently on this trip came after one of the post from one of our Members who had lost her husband the day before. We started talking more about Blue Water Navy Veterans dying daily and how many would die between now and January 1, 2020. That seem to hit home more. To me it seemed that we were again telling them something they didn’t know about, didn’t care about, or just wanted to not think about it. We think about it daily since we are listening to the people who view our pages. Maybe the Large VSOs, Members of Congress, and the VA should do more of that. Instead of putting a number to the person, put a Name to them, maybe, just maybe it would wake them up.
On our team we have the Air Force, the Marines, and the Navy. We have enlisted, officers, and even an enlisted that became an officer. When we are on the hill we all work together as if we are all the same. We all need to do what we can to help. So don’t wait for us to ask you to make those calls, don’t wait for us to ask you to email Congress, The VA, Or the President. Do it on your own, tell YOUR story, and by any way you can SHARE our sites, our Post and try to raise the number of Members we have. We are on a quest to become a VSO and the need 900 new members and we need to keep our membership numbers up over 2000. Please, when you are on other Veterans Pages please recommend us. Refer them to https://www.bwnvva.org/store/p2/dues.html
On one other note, please don’t forget we have items we give for donations. We have various items and we will be offering specials. These items are used to Spread the Word about our Association. We have Hats, Yard Flags, Mouse Pads, and other items. You can go to https://www.bwnvva.org/items.html to see the items. You can share this link also ( as long as the site you are doing it on allows it).
Blue Water Navy Association
H.R. 299 PASSES SENATE
H.R. 299 has passed the Senate on 6/12/19. This will end up helping around 90,000 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, it will end up not covers around 55,000 that the Procopio Ruling may of covered. Carries and there escort ships may not if they did not pass into the Offshore Waters (Territorial Seas) per H.R.299 . The Procopio Ruling stated that the Offshore Water went farther than the Territorial Seas. H.R.299 will take effect in January after the President signs the Bill.
FLASH: Court just denied VA's Motion for stay of mandate. Mandate will issue tomorrow March 22. That means unless or until the Supreme Court overrules it Procopio is good law and the law of the land. That starts tomorrow folks. And I still do not believe there will be an appeal. PLEASE SHARE
Yesterday I was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review Journal
.Today the ruling for the Procopio Case was handed down and it is a BIG WIN for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. Go to Court Documents to read the ruling.
Washington post article
The ‘blue water’ Navy veterans of the Vietnam War battle Agent Orange By Ann E. Marimow December 28, 2018
Alfred Procopio Jr. left the Navy in 1967, decorated with medals for his service on the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier deployed off the coast of Vietnam. He also came home with health problems the U.S. government has linked to exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. Procopio is one of an estimated 52,000 veterans nationwide who were stationed on ships during the Vietnam War but are not eligible for the same disability benefits as those who put boots on the ground or patrolled the country’s inland rivers. His case, argued in December at a federal appeals court in Washington, could extend coverage for ailments associated with the infamous herbicide to a group of sailors known as the “blue water” Navy veterans. Parallel efforts in Congress to broaden benefits have stalled in recent years. This spring, the House unanimously approved a measure, but the Senate balked in December because of concerns about cost and demands for more scientific study. “We do not have another year to wait. Some of our veterans will not last that long,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) said on the Senate floor. “It doesn’t make any sense.” The legislative and legal questions are intertwined: Did Congress intend to give these sailors the benefit of the doubt when it comes to showing their medical conditions are connected to toxic exposure? At stake for Procopio, 73, and a leader of the veterans’ group, Mike Yates, is as much as $3,000 a month. During the war, U.S. naval forces patrolled Vietnam’s 1,200-mile-long coastline, supplied Marines on land and provided long-range artillery support. Those stationed offshore like Procopio and Yates were referred to as the “blue water” Navy in contrast to the “brown water” sailors who operated on inland waterways. Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed more than 74 million liters of herbicides, including Agent Orange, to destroy crops and reduce cover for enemy forces. Two decades later, amid scientific uncertainty, Congress passed a law to ensure veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam” could obtain disability compensation for certain health problems connected to exposure. 1/5/2019 The ‘blue water’ Navy veterans of the Vietnam War battle Agent Orange - The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/the-blue-water-navy-veterans-of-the-vietnam-war-battle-agent-orange/2018/12/28/d9f8a9ea-ff09-11… 2/4 Two critical developments led to the current debate. First, Congress broadened the pool of eligible veterans. Then the Department of Veterans Affairs narrowed its interpretation of who qualifies as having “served in the Republic of Vietnam” — a definition it said excludes the offshore sailors. Advocates for the blue water sailors point to studies that show exposure occurred through contaminated water funneled into ship distillation systems and used for drinking, laundry and cleaning. Much of the spraying was on low-lying swamps of the Mekong River Delta that flows into the South China Sea, where they were stationed. Former veterans affairs secretary David Shulkin, who was fired by Pres 1/5/2019 The ‘blue water’ Navy veterans of the Vietnam War battle Agent Orange - The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/the-blue-water-navy-veterans-of-the-vietnam-war-battle-agent-orange/2018/12/28/d9f8a9ea-ff09-11… 3/4 “Congress made clear that any veteran who developed a disease linked to Agent Orange exposure and had ‘served in the Republic of Vietnam’ within a specified time frame would be entitled to a presumption of exposure and service connection,” attorney Melanie L. Bostwick told the court. Government lawyers say the statute is unclear and the “passage of time has not further illuminated Congress’s intent.” “Congress did not define ‘served in the Republic of Vietnam,’ much less define it to include service in offshore waters,” according to the government’s filing. But, the government says, Congress did give VA, not the courts, the power to determine the breadth of benefits for veterans. Yates, the head of the Blue Water Navy Association, spent two years hunting submarines and protecting aircraft carriers on the USS Bainbridge. He retired in 2012 after a career as an engineer but has gone back to work in Las Vegas at 68 because of the high cost of treatments for prostate cancer and hypertension, both of which are considered herbicide-linked conditions. “Their job is to take care of the veterans,” said attorney John B. Wells, a retired Navy commander who has represented Procopio in his challenge to VA. “We did our job, they should do theirs,” Yates said. Read more: His F-16 lost its engine, then caught fire over Washington before crashing. And he lived to tell about it. A WWI memorial is under legal attack from atheists. But who are the men remembered there? Ann E. Marimow Ann Marimow covers legal affairs for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2005 and has covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. Follow
Year End Review
YEAR END REVIEW
WOW, this year has had its ups and downs for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. We started this year going in a different direction than the way we were going the year before, in the middle of the year we changed direction again and at years end we finish better than ever.
I want to THANK Everyone for the support you have given the Association and me. You have no idea how hard it has been for some of us. As much as we gripe,we enjoy what we do. We aren’t doing it as much as for ourselves but for YOU and the other Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.
Yes we are very disappointed that H.R.299 did not pass the Senate. BUT look at what had happened, it pass the House by a Vote of 382 to 0. No Member of the House was opposed to the BILL. Then it get in the Senate and the problems started. First we had the Big 4 VSO tell us they are behind us, but while they were behind our backs they decided they opposed the way it was funded. This went on for 10 weeks and then they decide that the funding was OK. During this time the VA had a chance to convince the CBO that the cost wasn’t right and let the Senator know and the other that more research was needed. There is a few problems with this:
Now the decision we have made may not be popular with the Membership but it does make sense. Here is what we are going to focus one:
Now I have to apologize for some things I promised. I am running way behind in sending out receipts and other items, but in my defense I have been working on other things for the Association. More on that will be coming out later. I also tried to make sure we had a Newsletter come out more often but again I fell behind in that. I have asked two others to take over the Newsletter and I hope they can put one out at least once a month.
As I said we didn’t get H.R. 299 passed BUT we did not FAIL, We can hold our head up high and say we did all we could do. We had the whole House and 98 Senators on our side. It was just two misguided or misinformed Senators that stopped us. It has already be announced that John Wells has a meeting to talk with Senator Enzi at the end of January, he is also trying to set up a meeting with Senators Lee. I want to suggest that in the June/July time frame that we all contact Senator Lee and ask him where the Research Study that the VA promised him. In his Objection Speech on the Senate floor he stated than in mid-tear the VA study would be done. Of Course I won’t have much faith in that study unless an independent organization is doing it.
This coming year we all need to do more and get this thing done. This coming year I propose we have a theme that we use to get the message to the VA, Congress, and the President. His is based on my quote in the Washington DC article, “We did our job, they should do theirs”.
Let’s work hard to get our benefits back.
One other item I need to mention, some time this week we will be deleting from the Members Only Facebook Page everyone who hasn’t paid for their 2019 Dues. I will make this one time offer, if you are planning to pay by the middle of the month due to your check coming in, let me or Mike K know and we will hold off deleting you. If you get deleted you will need to answer those questions again.
Thank you for all the support you have given me and Thank you all for your hard work.
Executive Director/National Commander
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association.
nEWS FLASH - Meeting Scheduled
BWNVVA National Commander and MVA Board member Mike Yates, MVA Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressional Liaison Susie Belanger, MVA Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs Jim Kuiken, MVA board member Brian Moyer and John Wells will meet with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie at 9am on December 3rd.
New Letter I sent OUT
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association
7065 W Ann Rd #130651
Las Vegas, NV 89130
October 1, 2018
There is a lot of talk is going on about how everyone doesn’t like the way H.R.299 is being funded and how it is unfair for some Veterans to pay around $350 a year more on their mortgage to pay for it. While I agree that it may not be the best way to do it, Congress has left us no choice and no other options.
I would like for you to look at in from a different angle. What about the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran that must go to the doctor and pay co-payments. In my case the amount I owed was over $2500. That may not seem like a lot to you , but when you are living on Social Security, that is a large amount. I had to go out and look for a job, so I could pay my medical bills after being forced retired. It got to a point where I no long could afford to go a VA doctor. It was so much that the VA decided to take a portion of my Social Security check so that I could pay it back faster. I am sure I am not the only one in this position. I know in the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association we have many members who are hurting financially because of the cost of their medical care due to the being exposed to Agent Orange.
For some reason the VA seems they know better that any other government agencies. The following are three examples.
The VA says the cost of providing benefits to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans is over $6.7 billion, yet the CBO estimates it is going to cost around 1 Billion over Ten Years. One agency expertise in spending money and the other agencies expertise is managing money. There are other estimates that the cost over ten years is under 1 Billion far under the VA estimate.
Back in 1991 a law was passed to give benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, then is 1998 the VA in their wisdom decided to take away these benefits. Why was the VA allowed to basically rewrite a law that Congress had passed, and the President has signed?
The VA is stating that they are going to doing more researching to check on the possibility of the Agent Orange exposure for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. Back in 1991 the following was written into Public Law No: 102-4 it: “Directs the Secretary, for facilitating research on the effects of exposure to herbicides used in Vietnam, to establish and maintain a system for the collection and storage of voluntarily contributed blood and tissue samples of veterans who served there. Provides for: (1) specimen security; (2) authorized use; (3) limitations on acceptance of samples; and (4) authority based on specific funding.” I , and all other Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans were covered under this law, Yet I know for a fact I was never contacted, and I will bet very few of the members of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association or Members of our Facebook page were contacted. Yet the VA claims they have a Commitment to all Veterans. We are still waiting for that, so how can we expect the VA to follow through with their “research”. Each day there is a delay, more Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans are dying.
This doesn’t only affect Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans but their family members. I have been contacted by a Widow that is very worried about making her house payment since losing her husband. She is close to losing her house. Her husband died of an Agent Orange related disease. How can our government keep allowing this to happen? I know for a fact that if I don’t receive benefits before I die, my wife will be in the same position.
We Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans have waiting long enough, please let H.R. 299 go to a floor for a vote. The time has come to help the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association is a non-profit tax-exempt group organized under Section 501[c] of the Internal Revenue Code. We assist and advice Veterans on current legislation, right now focusing on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. If you need any other information, please feel free to contact me at:
National Commander/Executive Director
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Association
The Following are official statements from the association and its leadership.