Manteca veterans joined their peers across San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties Thursday by staging a rally in support of federal legislation to help Navy veterans that have been denied benefits.
They are supporting HR Bill 299 that would provide medical and other benefits to the Blue Water Navy Veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam and Korea and suffered from Agent Orange exposures but have never received Veterans Administration benefits that others enjoy.
The cost to provide those health benefits over a 10-year period has been estimated at $5.5 billion for some 100,000 veterans. Agent Orange exposure and related medical coverage was passed by Congress in 1999 but reversed in 2002 for those who did not serve on land.
Manteca resident Shay Rosas, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who had been disabled when serving off the waters off Korea, served as the spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 that organized the afternoon rally at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.
Rosas explained that a bill had been sent to Congress some 19 times in past years without getting passed. The benefits are being denied because it is believed by government officials that those serving off the coast were not exposed to the same danger as those who served on land.
VFW Post 6311 was joined by members of the Vietnam Veterans of America as well as the Disabled American Veterans and other VFW and American Legion posts in a collective support of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act 2018.
Rosas noted that the Department of Veterans Affairs had disputed scientific evidence that veterans who served in the coastal water off Vietnam during that war were exposed to Agent Orange found to be associated with rare cancers and other health conditions.
“Once again we are faced with political turmoil with only days left before Congress ends its current session,” she said “Blue Water Navy Veterans are facing defeat for the 19th time should the bill again fail. Senator Michael Enzi of Utah has refused to vote in favor of the veterans. We strongly urge the public to contact their congressmen ASAP and request their support in passing the bipartisan bill HR 299.”
Rosas said it is undeniable that thousands of Blue Water Veterans are suffering and dying from the same conditions as veterans who served on land in combat during the Vietnam War.
“Time is running out for many Blue Water Navy veterans,” she added. “The Senate must not further delay veterans’ benefits while the men and women sicken and die from diseases related to Agent Orange. The volunteering men and women who are asked to wear the uniform of our nation are asked to serve in the roughest and most dangerous environments on Earth.” .
“The medical conditions the military incurred from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam/Korea will cause some of them to die without ever experiencing the treatment that their comrades in arms have been allowed to have for over 40 years,” she said.
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