Make America Great Again, Support Our Veterans!

Actress Carroll Baker and Bob Hope on the flight deck of the Ticonderoga, Vietnam

Actress Carroll Baker and comedian Bob Hope on the flight deck of the Ticonderoga, South Vietnam

The Washington political establishment does not seem to have a clue as to how to manage and fix the shoddy care of our nation’s veterans, and the ongoing disregard of their ‘should be a priority status’ continues to make America less than great.

Veteran’s from every branch of the US military have been affected by the gross mismanagement of the Veterans Benefits Administration. One such example of our government’s lack of oversight is illustrated in a recent report in the Stars and Stripes March 4, 2016 edition, that highlights the Vietnam War and the some 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who are thought to have been exposed to and possibly harmed by Agent Orange, a dangerous chemical contaminate called dioxin that the U.S. military used to defoliate dense forests making it easier to spot enemy troops. It is shocking to learn that our Vietnam veterans are only eligible for VA compensation if they went on land, earning them a status called “boots on the ground,”or if their ships entered Vietnam’s rivers.

Hundreds of U.S. Navy ships crossed into Vietnam’s rivers or sent crew members ashore, possibly exposing their sailors to the toxic herbicide! More than 40 years after the war’s end, the U.S. government still does not have a full accounting of which ships traveled where, adding hurdles and delays for sick Navy veterans seeking compensation. The importance of proving to the VA which ships went inland during the war was underscored last month, when the VA rejected a request from veterans and members of Congress to extend benefits to all Navy veterans who served within 12 miles of the Vietnamese coast, the so-called ‘Blue Water’ veterans. Those vets believe they were exposed to Agent Orange even if they stayed off the coast, arguing their ships sucked in water tainted with Agent Orange and they used it for showering, cooking and cleaning.

More than 700 Navy ships deployed to Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. Veterans have produced records to get about half of them onto the VA’s working list, with new ships being added every year, but veterans advocacy groups estimate about 90,000 Navy vets are still not eligible to receive benefits related to Agent Orange exposure, either because their ships never entered inland waters, or because they have yet to prove they did.

Veteran Joseph Pires, 68, spent the last 2 1/2 years working to convince the VA that his ship, the aircraft carrier USS Bennington, should be added to the list. He reviewed the daily deck logs to find the latitude and longitude recordings and read officers’ descriptions of the ship’s movements. He found a listing for Dec. 26, 1966, when the ship entered Qui Nhon Bay Harbor to pick up comedian Bob Hope and his troupe for an onboard Christmas show. “Now I had the proof,” he said.

Pires submitted it to the VA, waited a year and received an email on Dec. 31 notifying him the Bennington had been added to the VA’s list. That makes about 2,800 crew members aboard the ship on those two days eligible for benefits if they have illnesses associated with Agent Orange. Now Pires is waging the next battle: His personal application for benefits, based on his prostate cancer and ischemic heart disease, which has been pending for nine months.

Thanks to the help of the ongoing investigation by ProPublica and the Virginian-pilot, someday these Vietnam Vets and their children, who also may be affected, will be helped, no thanks to the United States bureaucracy.

Thank God for the Patriots of old like Bob Hope who understood the importance of America’s troops and veterans, the days when Bob Hope could joke about “one G.I kissing another G.I…why? …can’t help it if he’s my replacement!” The days when our troops and veterans were honored by all and supported!

Vote for non-politican Donald Trump who will make America great again and promises to support our treasured, brave Veterans!

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