The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
May/June 2006
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT
 
 

Continuing Resolutions
 

BY JOHN MITERKO, CHAIR

The 2005 National Convention saw no changes in the Resolutions charged to the Government Affairs Committee. For the complete texts of all Resolutions, go to www.vva.org/OrgDocs/2005Resolutions-fnl.pdf The Government Affairs Committee subsequently met in October and January. During both meetings update reports were given on all of our assigned Resolutions.

G-1-03: VETERANS VOTE! CAMPAIGN TO ENHANCE VETERANS ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY

Issue: Due to the service and sacrifice of veterans who served during the Vietnam War, Vietnam Veterans of America has a special responsibility to encourage its members, all veterans, and all American citizens to exercise their civic responsibility to vote, to participate more fully in the political and electoral processes at all levels, and to produce educational and informational materials to facilitate the same. VVA has developed and distributed to our membership and provided educational support for VVA’s comprehensive Veterans Vote! Campaign program to facilitate the participation of VVA members and all veterans in our nation’s political and electoral processes. This resolution amends G-1-95, G-4-95, G-1-97, G-4-97, G-1-99, G-4-99, G-1-01 and G-4-01.

Status: Government Relations and Public Relations staffs and committees will work together to update the Veterans Vote! Program during the 2006 election season.

G-2-95: LEGISLATIVE COORDINATOR NETWORK

Issue: It is critically important to Vietnam Veterans of America’s mission and objectives to coordinate national legislative and administrative advocacy efforts directly with Vietnam Veterans of America’s state councils; and to help state councils in establishing and maintaining effective and efficient local and state legislative and administrative advocacy programs. Using state councils, rather than individual chapters, enhances the efficiency and productivity of VVA’s federal grassroots network. The work of state council legislative coordinators also is essential to effective local and state VVA legislative and administrative advocacy efforts.

Status: The Government Relations staff has worked to expand the legislative coordinator network at each of the state councils to insure that the national organization can effectively organize and coordinate federal legislative and administrative advocacy activities at the state level. Using an e-mail network of state legislative coordinators, correspondence and all other written and oral communications from the national office on federal issues has been communicated to the state council legislative coordinators, state council presidents, regional directors, and any other interested parties on a regular basis. In 2005, approximately 197 Legislative Alerts were sent out from Government Relations through the Legislative Coordinator network to our members at the grassroots level.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of communications is one way: from VVA national to the states, with very little feedback coming from the grassroots to the national office, resulting in ineffective interaction between VVA national and the states. Attempts have been made to have each state council assign a legislative liaison. This has not yet happened. Government Relations staff has been sending out Legislative Alerts to those on the GR e-mail list, but this does not constitute a legislative network. Since open two-way communications is essential for VVA as an advocacy organization, the need for an improved Legislative Coordinator network will continue to be a top priority for the Government Affairs Committee. CSCP will be asked for ideas and support on how to improve the network.

G-3-95: VVA SUPPORT FOR THE NATIONAL GULF WAR RESOURCE CENTER

Issue: A growing national veterans’ service organization, the National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC), was formed to work on issues relevant to veterans of this war. The commonalities shared by VVA and the NGWRC make us logical allies. VVA’s support of the NGWRC can help both organizations fulfill their missions. The parallels between the Gulf War veteran movement and that of the Vietnam veteran generation go far beyond the health problems associated with environmental exposures. They have found the need to establish a single-generation veterans’ organization because their overall and specialized needs were not being adequately met. VVA provides the NGWRC with office space and related resources. In addition,  VVA provides Persian Gulf veterans with access to VVA service representatives on a resource-available basis. VVA leaders and the NGWRC collaborate on government relations advocacy with Congress and agencies of the federal government. VVA also provides support and guidance for the NGWRC’s own advocacy efforts.

Status: VVA support for NGWRC continues as it has in the past in providing material, monetary, and personnel support, and especially in actively advocating legislation for the NGWRC on Capitol Hill. As VVA provided support to NGWRC, we also benefited from the media savvy and contacts of NGWRC executive director, Steve Robinson. Unfortunately, he has moved on to a new position.

G-4-97 and V-15-95: EXTENSION OF VIETNAM CONFLICT ENDING DATE AND ELIGIBILITY FOR VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL

Issue: Congress has declared March 28, 1973, as the official termination date of the Vietnam Conflict pursuant to the Vietnam Disengagement Act of 1975. Only those who served prior to this date are eligible for an award of the Vietnam Service Medal and to be considered Vietnam veterans. Many service members who served in Vietnam and the contiguous waters and airspace after March 28, 1973, were involved in operations such as Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind up until May 15, 1975, when the crew of the USS Mayaguez was rescued. These service members were exposed to combat or were at imminent risk of hostile action. There were 85 service members killed in action from March 28, 1973, to May 15, 1975, and 20 were killed during the Mayaguez rescue. All these service members’ names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Status: VVA has been working to urge the President of the United States by executive order to extend the eligibility date for an award of the Vietnam Service Medal or an appropriate Expeditionary Medal to May 30, 1975, and to work with Congress to amend the Vietnam Disengagement Act of 1975 to extend the ending date for the Vietnam Conflict, as well as the Vietnam era, to May 30, 1975. The rationale for extending the dates of eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal needs to be brought to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Changing the dates requires legislation, which in turn requires several co-sponsors, none of whom have been identified or stepped forward. Darrol Brown (Director, Region 9) has volunteered to work with the Government Relations staff to make this happen.

G-5-03: VET CENTER ELIGIBILITY FOR VIETNAM-ERA VETERANS

Issue: VVA urges that eligibility under PL 104-275 should be extended to permit Vietnam-era veterans to remain eligible for Vet Center services. Additionally, Vet Center services should be expanded to include further resources for veterans’ computer training and equipment, women readjustment services, assistance with Section 8 housing relocation, and transportation reimbursement for necessary services required by non-service-connected but seriously disabled veterans.

Status: This program was shut down to Vietnam-era veterans effective December 31, 2005. To extend the deadline, it will be necessary to work with Rep. Lane Evans (D- ll.) and Senators Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). Alan Gibson (VVA Board of Directors member; Chair, VVA EtaBO Committee; and Missouri State Council President) volunteered to work with GR staff on this project. 

G-7-99:  SERVICE CONNECTION FOR HEPATITIS C

Issue: Thousands of veterans, perhaps as many as 20,000, contend that they suffer from hepatitis C and the secondary effect of such disease, especially dysfunction of the liver and pancreas. Many veterans are suffering from hepatitis C but are unable to prove a service connection. A presumptive type of statute for service connection for hepatitis C would greatly reduce the burden of proof and allow these veterans to be compensated for hepatitis C, unless it is clearly and affirmatively established that the hepatitis C was acquired post-service.

Status: Because there is no clear-cut service-connection for hepatitis C, it is difficult to make a case for declaring it presumptive to service during the Vietnam era. Government Relations staff continues to work with VA staff to insure that the most effective, state-of-the-art treatment for this potentially fatal disease is provided by the VA Medical Centers.

G-9-03: AWARDING OF THE COMBAT MEDEVAC BADGE

Issue: Awarding of the Combat Medevac Badge (CMB) to medics who were assigned to Air Ambulance Units during the Vietnam War. Until recently, most Vietnam veterans, including Dustoff pilots, assumed that medics assigned to Dustoff were awarded the CMB. We have learned that this was not done due to the way the regulation was written in 1945. In Vietnam, Dustoff crews flew more than 400,000 missions and carried more than 900,000 patients. There are more than 200 aero medical crewmembers’ names on The Wall, including more than 50 Dustoff medics. VVA supports the efforts of veterans and veterans service organizations who seek to change the regulations that have prevented the issuance of the Combat Medevac Badge to aero medical crew members from the Vietnam War.

Status: Jeff White (Pennsylvania State Council President), Bob Johnston (Chair, POW/MIA Committee) and Cliff Hayes (District 5 Director, Buckeye State Council) have volunteered to take the lead in defining the course of action required to resurrect this issue.

   

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