(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Darryl Wood/Released)

Veteran Service Organizations come together for 'Blue Water' Veterans

June 26, 2018 - 10:28 am

With the House approving benefits for "Blue Water" Navy Veterans, it's just one more example of how much veteran service organizations (VSOs) can accomplish when they work together.

Around 90,000 sailors served off the coast of Vietnam during the war. Many were exposed to Agent Orange which is known to cause multiple health issues, including cancer. VA policy up to this point does not allow blue water Navy veterans acces to Agent Orange benefits, unless they could prove they set foot in Vietnam. 

The expanded benefits will allow them to receive the same benefits as their boots on the ground counterparts when it comes to illnesses known to be connected to Agent Orange exposure including Hodgkin’s and Parkinson’s disease, Prostate and Respiratory Cancers and a number of other health issues.

While it's taken over 40 years to get to the precipice of seeing this legislation become law, it's evidence of the continued hard work veteran service organizations like Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have been hammering away at for decades. Since 1920, DAV has been rallying for veterans to get the benefits they deserve, whether it takes four years or forty, according to DAV Executive Director Garry Augustine.

"It takes a long time to get legislation passed to get Congress to understand what veterans are exposed to and what their residual effects are," Augustine said during an appearance on ConnectingVets' Morning Briefing radio show. "It's not an easy process." 

While it's been a long process, DAV hasn't had to go it alone. Augustine cites strong support from, and teamwork with, VSOs including Vietnam Veterans of America,Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, Paralyed Veterans of America, and AMVETS.

"Even though sometimes our constituencies have different priorities, when it comes to these kinds of issues, we all work hard together," Augustine said. "...Congress takes notice to that when we come forth."

This is far from the only issue the "Big 6" VSO's have been united on. In fact, more than 38 organizations signed a joint letter on caregiver issues earlier this year. In 2018, according to Augustine this is just more proof that VSOs can be a force multiplier. 

"We're united now," Augustine said. "More now than ever."

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