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Veterans' News

How veterans' needs are funded and new Haas-related disability claims accepted

Through the marvels of modern technology and science this month’s article—and the next two—will be submitted via email from my Yucatecan beach front hideaway. It has been said that with age comes wisdom and I have learned that one, I don’t enjoy skiing and two, I don’t really enjoy shoveling snow. These two observations have led me to the conclusion that I’d be foolish to stay in the Inland Northwest when I don’t have to. So, for the past six years I have been fleeing to this very spot on the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula while those less fortunate—you Dear Readers—have to deal with those things I have left behind.

However, Mother Nature—as is Her wont—has had the last laugh at this presumptuousness. Since I arrived here on New Year’s Day we have had no temperatures above 67 degrees and almost continuous wind with rain showers. The saving grace with these negatives is that we are not shoveling this stuff and a long-sleeved shirt and long pants are completely adequate to brave the storm.

But I digress—this is supposed to be a column about things of interest to local and regional veterans. So, here goes. Shortly before I left Sandpoint I had a lengthy conversation with another involved and concerned veteran. The gist of his remarks was about the problems and shortcomings of regional services for veterans. It was my perception from his remarks that he felt that not enough was being done by any of the three arms involved in meeting the needs of our veterans.

Let me define what I mean by the ‘three arms.’ The first one is the U.S. government’s Department of Veterans Affairs, without which the other two arms would be useless. The second arm is made up of the individual states and the local county veterans’ assistance agencies. Lastly, and by no means least, are the nationally chartered and unchartered Veterans Service Organizations—hence forth VSOs—like the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and over 200 others.

A brief review of the budgets of the VA quickly reveals the sad fact that until very recently they have been woefully underfunded to adequately accomplish the tasks assigned. During the previous administration’s first term the budget for the VA increased from slightly more than 40 billion dollars to just over 60 billion. While a 33 percent increase may appear to be substantial it must be reconciled with the fact that we were not at war before that period and during that time we invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan and were creating injured and/or disabled veterans at a high rate. Also during that same period the VA was forced to reallocate available funding—the result of greatly reduced income revenue from the tax cuts the Bush Administration implemented—to those veterans that were rated to be greater than 30 percent disabled. When you cut to the chase the VA was unable to provide the whole spectrum of services needed by our returning men and women that had served honorably and well.

The situation at the VA didn’t get any better during the second term. Cuts were made to staffing and there was even an attempt made to close some VA medical centers to save money. The result of these funding shortfalls resulted in enormous backlogs and under-serving those veterans in rural or less densely populated regions. With greater numbers of service personnel surviving horrendous wounds the strain on the VA and Armed Forces medical services was growing exponentially. Think about the stories of mold growing on the walls of Walter Reed Hospital—the best known military hospital in the country—simply because there was inadequate funding for these facilities.

The situation is still bad and until something is done to correct the huge imbalances between expenses and revenue income it will not get any better. I’m hopeful that in the not too distant future somebody, somewhere will finally have the light bulb over their head turn on and ‘get it’—the simple fact that one cannot provide services at any level without having the means to pay for them. This holds true for required care for our injured warriors and a sound, well-maintained national highway system and every other facet of modern society. One simply cannot expect good service at no cost.

The second arm—or leg if you wish—of veterans’ services are the state and county officials. Generally, I really believe that on a national scale these men and women want to do everything they can for our veterans. They suffer under the very same constraints as the national department does—not enough money, staff or time. Here in Idaho we have an even greater burden. Our legislature and governor are cutting all services throughout the state. Not only are veterans getting the shaft from these budget cuts but so are our children and every other individual that requires any social and/or health service. In the name of thrift and efficiency the leaders of Idaho have assured the next generation of Idahoans a lower standard of living than the current generation. They are still operating on the failed “Trickle Down” economic theory and are sacrificing the greater majority of Idahoans—including our returning veterans—to achieving and obtaining less than their parents did.

When you look at the problems we have with the first two arms (or legs) we can clearly see it will take a serious nation-wide effort to get back on track. The revenues must be increased if we are ever to adequately care for our veterans and provide the services they have earned and are entitled to. If we don’t accept the fact we must pay for those things that have been promised there will be no change in the situation. There never has been—nor will there ever be—a “Free Lunch.” Someone has to pay for it. Right now there is a huge debt owed by those that can best afford to pick up the tab. Until such time as we, as a people, accept the debt we owe to those we send into harm’s way things won’t get better.

We owe our sons and daughters the best that we can give them in return for the service that they have given us. Besides, it would do this nation a world of good to reinstitute a vigorous, upwardly mobile middle-class like we had after WWII. Next month I’ll get into the third arm—VSOs. I’ll try to be a little less preachy but if I can get one legislator or elected representative to do one altruistic thing about this national shame I’ll have had success.

Information on Vietnam Naval Operations

VA Compensation and Pension Service has initiated a program to collect data on Vietnam naval operations for the purpose of providing regional offices with information to assist with development in Haas-related disability claims based on herbicide exposure from Navy veterans.  To date, we have received verification from various sources showing that a number of offshore “blue water” naval vessels conducted operations on the inland “brown water” rivers and delta areas of Vietnam.  We have also identified certain vessel types that operated primarily or exclusively on the inland waterways.  The ships and dates of inland waterway service are listed below.  If a veteran’s service aboard one of these ships can be confirmed through military records during the time frames specified, then exposure to herbicide agents can be presumed without further development.

All vessels of Inshore Fire Support [IFS] Division 93 during their entire Vietnam tour

USS Carronade (IFS 1)

USS Clarior River (LSMR 409) [Landing Ship, Medium, Rocket]

USS Francis River (LSMR 525)

USS White River (LSMR 536)

All vessels with the designation LST [Landing Ship, Tank] during their entire tour

[WWII ships converted to transport supplies on rivers and serve as barracks for brown water Mobile Riverine Forces]

All vessels with the designation LCVP [Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel] during their entire tour

All vessels with the designation PCF [Patrol Craft, Fast] during their entire tour, also called Swift Boats, operating for enemy interdiction on close coastal waters

All vessels with the designation PBR [Patrol Boat, River] during their entire tour; also called River Patrol Boats as part of the Mobile Riverine Forces operating on inland waterways.]

USS Ingersoll (DD-652) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, October 24-25, 1965]

USS Mansfield (DD728 [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River August 8-19, 1967 and December 21-24, 1968]

USS Richard E. Kraus (DD-849) [Destroyer] [Operated on coastal inlet north of Da Nang, June 2-5, 1966, protecting Marines holding a bridge]

USS Basilone (DD-824) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, May 24-25, 1966]

USS Hamner (DD-718) [Destroyer] [Operated on Song Lon Tao and Long Song Tao Rivers, August 15-September 1, 1966]

USS Conway (DD-507) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, early August 1966]

USS Fiske (DD-842) [Destroyer] [Operated on Mekong River, June 16-21, 1966]

USS Black (DD-666) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, July 13-19, 1966]

USS Providence (CLG-6) [Cruiser, Light, Guided Missile] [Operated on Saigon River 3 days during January 1964]

USS Mahan (DLG-11) [Guided Missile Frigate] [Operated on Saigon River October 24-28, 1964]

USS Okanogan (APA-220) [Attack Transport] [Operated on Saigon River July 22-23, 29-30, 1968 and August 5-6, 1968]

USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3) [Combat Stores Ship] [Unloaded supplies on Saigon River and Cam Rahn Bay, April 22-25, 1968]

If you served on any of these ships, please get in touch with your local veterans’ services office for information and help with processing disability claims.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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