FRA Staff and VA Secretary Discuss Agent Orange Blue Water Navy Issue
FRA Assistant Director of Veteran Programs Brian Condon, along with representatives from other veteran organizations, met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin to discuss the effects the toxin Agent Orange had on Vietnam veterans who served on ships in the Da Nang and Nha Trang Harbors. The discussion ranged from the shallow harbors and how sediment at the bottom was stirred up by ship propellers to how traces of the toxin can still be found there two decades later. The toxin found its way on board ships in the harbors through rainwater wash off, currents, tides and the numerous other ways.
Representatives stressed that authorizing Blue Water Vietnam Veterans be put on the presumptive list for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. It would not be granting any new benefits, but rather returning benefits previously granted to Vietnam Veterans. The VA Secretary can authorize this by regulation. At the conclusion of the discussion, Secretary Shulkin was provided a packet of letters written by Blue Water Veterans. There were more than 30 one-page, written letters that spoke about financial struggles and personal frustrations with the long and agonizing wait. The authors urged the secretary to authorize the VA to provide care for those who served. Shulkin listened inquisitively and asked pertinent questions. He acknowledged there was much he had to learn about the Agent Orange Blue Water Navy issue, but he considered it important and he wanted to learn more. FRA will continue to also work on a legislative remedy and members are urged to use the FRA Action Center.