(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – “Former Senator Alan Simpson seems to have jumped from the verbal frying pan into the fire with his latest comments on government excess, this time targeting how ‘the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess,’” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
Simpson, the Republican co-chair of the President’s Deficit Commission, who at one time chaired the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, complained in an interview that veterans receiving disability payments for illnesses associated with their exposure to Agent Orange during their service in the Vietnam War run “contrary to efforts to control federal spending.” His comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though, the AP report noted, decades of research have failed to find more than a possible link between diabetes mellitus and the defoliant Agent Orange.
“The system doesn’t ‘automatically award’ disability benefits to veterans,” Rowan said. “The VA has, far too often, been the adversary rather than the advocate for the veterans it serves. If an in-country veteran, who is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, to dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known, is afflicted with one of the maladies deemed service-connected by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, that veteran has earned whatever benefits he or she is awarded.
“While we agree with Senator Simpson that ‘common sense is the most uncommon thing in Washington,’ we would respectfully suggest that there are more than a few worthy targets for his ire. When the US Government sends its sons and daughters off to war, it must be prepared to pay the full price.”