J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant
We will persevere
Throughout virtually every facet of the DAV mission runs one word: perseverance.
We see countless stories of individuals who, despite life-changing injuries and illness, overcome challenges to achieve remarkable victories. Our advocates in the field never stop fighting to help veterans and their families gain access to their benefits. And our volunteers are relentless in their pursuit to make life better for the men and women who served.
Both in the military and in our lives as veterans, we persevere. We keep pressing on, no matter how difficult the road ahead. We are driven by many things: a passion to serve, the spirit of brother and sisterhood and a refusal to accept defeat.
I know that many Vietnam veterans were disappointed by the outcome of the fight to get the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act across the finish line before the end of the year, which would have righted a long-standing injustice to tens of thousands of veterans who served in harm’s way and were exposed to Agent Orange.
However, in January, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Blue Water Navy veterans in the case of Alfred Procopio Jr., who served aboard the USS Intrepid during the war and later developed illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure. The ruling technically now means that any veteran who served up to 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam are presumed eligible for disability benefits for diseases linked to Agent Orange. The VA can attempt to overturn the ruling by appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days, which could result in a stay or hold being placed on all Blue Water Navy veterans claims until the outcome of the appeal is decided.
We will, of course, continue to monitor the case and fight for Blue Water Navy veterans. This is a major victory, but it may not be the end of the road. We have faced many challenges and setbacks to get to this point, and with your help and support, have shone a spotlight on this critical issue.
Though the legislation failed to get through the Senate last year, we knew it did not spell defeat—instead it was a chance to rally our strength and carry on. The battle is not yet over.
We have made our position clear to those on Capitol Hill, and we will ensure that we continue the fight in 2019. With your help, we will persevere.
If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.