[Editorial written by Jerry Donnellan....February 2017]
You know -- I would have thought today’s troops could have found their own poison, and not have to borrow one from our war in Vietnam.
You remember Agent Orange. Our friends at the Pentagon told us dumb vets it was just a weed killer when they first started spraying it in ‘Nam in ’61 or ’62. After testing it here in the States on military bases or on railroad tracks and high tension wires - ever wonder why nothing grew under the high tension wires?
A number of years ago, people who lived near these clearings began developing cancer. They looked up at the wire and talked about electromagnetic fields, when perhaps they should have been looking under their feet. That stuff has a half-life of 7 years.
Veterans of my war began developing illnesses that were unexplained. The VA coined the term, “Vietnam Syndrome.” They did this to explain this hodgepodge of illnesses and cancers. They even commissioned studies by the Health and Medicine Division, previously known as the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Medicine (HMD). This “independent, objective analysis” was to show that Agent Orange wasn’t responsible for these illnesses. The HMD shaped the methodology and data to influence the outcome of the study to be what the VA wanted it to be.
At the time, we didn’t care. We were just happy to have gotten out of ‘Nam in one piece. Some of our fellow Vietnam vets began to do some research and encouraged others more experienced in the field, and found the dioxin in Agent Orange caused cancer. This data was taken to Uncle Sam who didn’t want to hear it. So as a group we felt the only way to get attention was to sue. Since we couldn’t sue Uncle Sam, the decision was made to sue the manufacturers of Agent Orange. Primarily, Dow, Monsanto, and Diamond Shamrock. In the final analysis in 1984, we won 480 million dollars, which if nothing else called Uncle Sam’s bluff, and the VA then had to agree to begin compensating those exposed to Agent Orange. At first only one illness was connected. Over the years, it’s grown.
Veterans began submitting claims to the VA in 1977. Even though the suit was settled in ’84, by 1993, only 486 claims had been settled in the veterans’ favor – that is of 39,419 submitted. God knows how many veterans passed in the interim.
Now a number of diseases and cancers have been rated presumptive by the DVA. In English that means if you had say Diabetes or Prostate Cancer, and you served in Vietnam, the connection was accepted and you would be granted compensation. Understand this took a very long time and a lot of people. Not only the Vietnam veterans, but we also had the backing of the Korean War veterans as well as the WWII veterans.
When I came back from Vietnam in 1969 I was in my early 20’s. Korean War veterans were in their 30’s, and WWII veterans were in their 40’s. That gave us an awful lot of people. An awful lot of votes.
Burn pits. They sound innocent – kind of like a bonfire, when actually most were the size of your backyard. One in Balad was 10 acres and burned 200 tons of garbage a day. What was burned? Everything. Dogs, body parts, chemicals, batteries, fuel, medical waste, vehicle parts, jet fuel. These burn pits were to have been temporary. However, the contractor, Kellogg, Brown, and Root, operated the burn pits as part of their 35 billion dollar logistics contract in Iraq and Afghanistan. They went on burning in open air pits for years, even after Uncle Sam had dispatched cleaner burning incinerators.
Back to the point. In these pits they also burned plastic bottles, styrofoam cups, and styrofoam. Why that’s important is when those things are burned they release, you got it – dioxin. So here we are half a century later exposing our troops to the same thing, exposing them to something we knew would make them sick and could kill them.
When Iraq and Afghan vets began to question this hodgepodge of illnesses that they were coming down with, they commissioned a study in 2011. Two years after the study, HMD – yes the same group that tried to debunk Agent Orange, was back to debunking burn pits. Close to 20 years before they were debunking what had come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome.
At that point, Congress commissioned the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) to conduct an independent study. RAC reviewed the evidence from nearly 2,000 scientific studies and government reports including both human and animal studies. RAC came back to Congress and said the previous studies were “irreparably flawed” and that the illness was “real.”
So, if you served in Iraq or Afghanistan and you were around burn pits, which many of you were probably billeted next to and exposed 24/7, if your lungs are doing their job they serve as a filter for the smoke and ash that was being taken in. Ever look at the back of an air conditioner? Kind of like that.
So, you were exposed in all likelihood to dioxin. I’m not trying to scare you, but understand I am still filing claims for my buddies from Vietnam whose exposure was nearly half a century ago. Please understand another thing. That is, Vietnam vets are on average 70 years old. So, in the not too distant future we’ll be gone – and the number of vets and votes will dwindle.
So, learn from us. If you feel you have symptoms, file a claim ASAP!
Bill May Compensate Vets from Palomares Accident
As reported by Julia Bergman for The Day on August 30, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is introducing legislation that would make about 1,000 Air Force veterans, who cleaned up one of worst nuclear accidents in history, eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Jan. 17, 1966, an Air Force B-52 bomber collided with a refueling plane, dropping four hydrogen bombs near Palomares, a small farming village on the Spanish coast. The bombs did not detonate, but two of them cracked on impact, releasing more than 3 billion micrograms of plutonium over the Spanish countryside. That's nearly half the amount released when the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II.
In the months following the Palomares accident, the U.S. military ordered approximately 1,600 service members, mainly U.S. airmen, to the site to search for airplane and bomb parts and to remove irradiated crops and soil. Read more...
Since the Vietnam War ended, thousands of Vietnam veterans have died each year due to Agent Orange exposure, PTSD/suicide, cancer, and other causes related to their service. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program honors those who returned home from Vietnam and later died. The plaque on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in Washington, D.C., that honors these veterans was dedicated in 2004 and reads: In Memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice. More than 3,600 veterans have been added to the In Memory Honor Roll since the program began. To see all the honorees, please visit: https://rockvets.worldsecuresystems.com/Admin/www.vvmf.org/honor-roll
New York State Veterans' Benefits
The state of New York provides several veteran benefits. This page explains those benefits.
NEW YORK STATE VETERANS HOME
There are veterans homes in Batavia, Long Island (Stony Brook University), Montrose, Oxford, and St. Albans. New York resident veterans with an honorable discharge are eligible for admission. Some spouses and unremarried surviving spouses are also eligible for admission.
NEW YORK VETERAN FINANCIAL BENEFITS
Military Pay: If your permanent home was New York state before entering the military, active-duty income is not subject to state taxes, IF you meet all three of the following conditions:
did not maintain any permanent place of abode in New York state during tax year;
maintained a permanent place of abode outside New York during the entire year;
spent less than 30 days in New York state during tax year. (Barracks, bachelor officers´ quarters, quarters assigned on vessel do not constitute permanent abode.)
It also is not subject to tax if taxpayer was in a foreign country for at least 450 days during any period of 548 consecutive days.
Retired Pay: Not taxable
Property Tax Exemptions
New York State has three different property tax exemptions are based on your military service, with additional benefits based upon degree of service-connected disability.
The Alternative Veterans' Exemption - for veterans who served during wartime or received an expeditionary medal.
The Cold War Veterans' Exemption - for veterans who served during the Cold War period.
The Eligible Funds Exemption - for property that a veteran buys with pension, bonus, or insurance funds
Applications must be filed before taxes are due, check with your city or county for more information. Qualifying surviving spouses may file for benefit based on their spouse's service. Exemption applies to local and county property taxes.
Burial Allowance: A supplemental burial allowance of up to $6,000 is authorized for certain military personnel killed in combat or while on active duty in hostile or imminent danger locations on or after September 29, 2003.
New York State Blind Annuity: The Blind Annuity Program benefit is for legally blind wartime veterans, or their surviving unremarried spouses. Blindness need not be service-connected.
New York State Gold Star Annuity: The Gold Star Parent Annuity authorizes an annuity payment of up to $500 to Gold Star parents.
E-Z Pass for Disabled Veterans: The New York State Thruway Authority offers free, unlimited travel anywhere on the Thruway to certain, qualifying disabled Veterans. You must be eligible for the fee-exempt vehicle registration from Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to qualify.
Death Benefits: New York State offers surviving family of military members killed in a combat zone a Supplemental Burial Allowance of up to $6,000. See the following link for a complete listing:
VA General Counsel Jim Byrne named VA Acting Deputy Secretary
WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that its General Counsel, Jim Byrne, has been named Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs effective Aug. 28.
Byrne was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 9, 2017, as the General Counsel for the department.
Prior to joining VA, Byrne served in Lockheed Martin Corp.’s legal department as the Chief Privacy Officer and lead information technology, cyber security and counterintelligence attorney.
Don’t Forget, the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program ends December 31, 2018. To receive FEDVIP dental and/or vision coverage in 2019, you must enroll during the Federal Benefits Open Season, Nov. 12–Dec. 10, 2018 (ET).
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 granted eligibility to certain TRICARE members to obtain benefits under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program. The program offers the choice of ten dental plans and four vision plans. All eligible family members must enroll in the same plan. This transition applies to military retirees and their families as well as the families of active-duty service members. Veterans and family members who do not select a carrier in this year’s Federal Benefits Open Season will NOT have coverage in 2019. For details visit: http://tricare.benefeds.com/
9/11 Heroes Run
The 9/11 Heroes Run 5k welcomes runners, ruckers, and walkers of all levels and of all ages. Events take place all over the world, on or near September 11th, and are 100% organized by local community volunteers. It is the perfect opportunity for your community to personally come out and thank your local veterans, their families, and first responders in an annual, fun, and family-friendly environment!
VA announces upcoming awards of nearly $326M in grants to help at-risk Veterans and family members
WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that thousands of low-income Veteran families around the nation will continue to receive benefits under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.
These Veterans, who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing, will continue to have access to crucial services with the funding of approximately $326 million in grants.
SSVF funding, which supports outreach, case management and other flexible assistance rapidly to re-house Veterans who are homeless — or at risk of becoming homeless — will be awarded to 252 nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A list of applicants that will be awarded grants is located at http://www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp
US-based Apache Squadron Teams With Drones
US-based Apache squadron teams up with drones during first Europe exercise
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Air cavalry soldiers teamed their Apache helicopter weapons systems with spotter drones to pinpoint targets, a first test for a 4th Combat Aviation Brigade unit that arrived in Europe last month.
In Wednesday’s exercise, the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment had RQ-7 Shadow drones spot targets from above. Then they used lasers to select where the helicopters needed to fire.
VA offers benefits to Veterans affected by a military exposure.
If you were exposed to a chemical, physical or environmental hazard during your military service, you may be eligible for health care, disability compensation and other VA benefits.
Take Leon, he served in the Air Force in Vietnam and decided to try VA health care years after leaving the service. Because VA linked several of his conditions to Agent Orange, he now receives treatment for those diseases that were assumed to be related to his exposure and a monthly disability compensation check.
In addition to Agent Orange, other potential qualifying exposures include Camp Lejeune water contamination, potential Gulf War exposures, some potential radiation exposures, depleted uranium and more. VA offers benefits for some children of Vietnam and Korean War-era Veterans with birth defects. VA also offers free health registry evaluations for possible health problems related to environmental exposures. Although the registry health evaluations are not considered exams for disability purposes, the medical findings can be used to help file a claim.
After being treated for his diseases presumed to be exposure related, Leon decided to use VA health care for all of his medical needs. “I get all my medications from the VA, eye glasses, dentures. Anything I need, I go through the VA,” he says.
To learn about all VA benefits and how to apply, visit Explore.VA.gov. See link below:
The Overwatch Blog - Concerned Veterans for America (www.cv4a.org) Concerned Veterans for America fought for years to fix the beleaguered Veterans Choice Program. Now that the VA MISSION Act is law, the VCP will be consolidated with other community care programs to eliminate confusion and allow veterans more access to medical care outside the VA. So what do veterans think of the new law?... Read more »
THE VA MISSION ACT IS LAW!
After years of calling on Congress to overhaul the Veterans Choice Program, your efforts have paid off, and President Trump signed the VA MISSION Act into law on June 6. This legislation is going to expand access to medical care outside the VA for veterans around the country.
The VA MISSION Act is a huge win for veterans. More vets will be able to get the care they need when they need it, and VA programs will be streamlined to better serve veterans. It’s a move that will empower all parties.
Signing the bill was just the first step. Now the VA MISSION Act must be implemented. The Veterans Choice Program is funded in the interim, so there won’t be gaps in veterans’ community care. But the real hard work involves the reviewing, refining and restructuring of various VA programs and processesover the next year.
Now the VA must focus on:
Developing clear eligibility standards for veterans to access care outside the VA.
Finding new and innovative ways to deliver health care and process payments.
Reviewing the VA’s assets and infrastructure so resources are used where veterans need them most.
CVA will continue to push Congress and the VA to stay vigilant and dedicated in implementing the VA MISSION Act. Stay tuned for updates as we follow the VA’s progress and thank President Trump for finally expanding choice for veterans! See story here: https://cv4a.org/the-va-mission-act-is-law/
For your information, here are the addresses for some of our local veterans' organizations:
Rockland County Marine Corps League, 20 Station Road, Pomona, New York 10970
Military Order of the Purple Heart, 20 Station Road, Pomona, New York 10970
Vietnam Veterans of America, P.O. Box 243, New City, New York 10956
Nam Knights, 1 Western Highway, Tappan, New York 10983
Korean War Veterans, P.O. Box 304, New City, New York 10956
R.C. Military Order of the Purple Heart, 20 Station Road, Pomona, New York 10970
Jewish War Veterans, P.O. Box 38, New City, New York 10956
Veterans of Foreign Wars, P.O. Box 921, New City, New York 10956
Air Force Association, Chapter 251, 207 Treetop Circle, Nanuet, New York 10954
Rockland County American Legion, 86 South Reld Drive, Pearl River, New York 10965
Combat Vet ID Cards Available Combat Veteran ID Cards are available. If you are a combat veteran, you can get this card at the County Clerk's Office which is located at 1 South Main Street, Suite 100, New City, New York 10956. To apply for the Combat Veteran ID Card, or the F.A.V.O.R. card for all veterans, if you don't already have one, bring your DD214 to the County Clerk's Office. They'll take your photo and make up a card for you.
For further information, contact the Rockland County Clerk's Office at (845) 638-5076.
This new Combat Veteran ID Card offers all of the same benefits as the F.A.V.O.R. (Find and Assist Veterans of Record) card, which includes almost 1000 discounts to Rockland's veterans, but this new CVID card has specific advantages. The CVID card is co-sponsored by the Rockland County Police Benevolent Association and will be recognized by our local law enforcement agencies. So if you ever get pulled over, along with your license, registration, and insurance card, show the police officer your Combat Vet ID card so he knows you're an in-country vet.
Useful Telephone Numbers for Veterans
Rockland County Veterans Service Agency
Rockland County Sheriff’s Office
Veterans Peer-to-Peer (Counseling)
People to People (Food)
Montrose VA Hospital
New City VA Clinic
Rape Crisis Services (Main)
Rape Crisis Services (24/7)
Home Health Care
Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency
Nyack Hospital Emergency
Mental Health Association of Rockland County
Mobile Mental Health
West Point (nearest military base)
New York National Guard (Orangeburg, NY)
Army Reserve (Orangeburg, NY)
Rockland County Housing Action Coalition
Meals on Wheels
Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial and Monument
The Rockland County Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial and Monument will honor those from Rockland who served in those two theaters of war, whether in the Persian Gulf War, Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, or Inherent Resolve in Iraq, or Operations Enduring Freedom or Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan - particularly those who gave their lives.
The Memorial and Monument will be located in Haverstraw Bay County Park near the Rockland County 9/11 Memorial. We will keep you posted as to dedication ceremony for the Memorial.
Chapter 120 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is accepting tax-free donations in support of this memorial and monument and providing a structure through which to coordinate and arrange for its construction. For further information, please call 845-371-7605.
Rockland County Marine Corps League Auxiliary
The Rockland County Marine Corps League Auxiliary continues its on-going campaign - Pet Rescue - to reunite our troops with pets they may have had to leave in Afghanistan. Cans and bottles (no glass bottles) that can be recycled for cash, may be brought to Kearsing Edwards American Legion Post 1600, 20 Station Road in Pomona, New York. They are collected by ARC Pet Rescue volunteers and recycled. Contributions for the Pet Rescue Project are also welcome! The funds pay for food and water to sustain pets on their journey home; their transportation is free. For more information contact Chairman Dale Fisher 845-304- 3595.
Rockland County Marine Corps League - MASH Unit
We regularly receive donations of handicap assistance equipment for disabled veterans from people who want to help. Our donated equipment is available for free to military veterans and their families. The items include the following:
If you have need of any of this equipment, contact the folks at the Rockland County Marine Corps League - 845-323-8774 or via e-mail: email@example.com.
RockVets Newsletter - A Project of New York Vets
RockVets is an Outreach project of New York Vets, Inc. - a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization established in 1992, to advocate for those who have worn the uniform of the U.S. Military, no matter where or when they served.
The volunteers at New York Vets / RockVets publish this monthly e-newsletter. We welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback. Please pass this along to other veterans who can benefit from some of the information in the newsletters. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the discretion of the editor, we'd be happy to add your upcoming events to our newsletter. Please submit the details to us as soon as possible, but no later than the 25th of each month so we can get the information in the following issue. Send information to email@example.com.