J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant
Advocacy in action: From Reno to Orlando and beyond
It may have been a whirlwind week in Reno, Nev., but I know I’m not alone in already looking forward to our 98th DAV National Convention in Orlando, Fla., next year! Surrounded by thousands of my fellow veterans and their families, I always feel so rejuvenated by the energy at our largest annual gathering.
The camaraderie with members from across the country is priceless; however, it is what we accomplish together that inspires me most. The work we did in Reno on behalf of our brothers and sisters sets the stage for the coming year. You identified the most pressing issues facing veterans today and crafted a path forward by adopting hundreds of resolutions. It is through this process that DAV has been making historic strides in protecting veterans’ rights for close to a century.
But we won’t be waiting until Orlando to take action on these pivotal issues. Rather, they are the guiding force of our advocacy every day. In June, the VA MISSION Act was signed into law by the president. DAV long advocated for expanding comprehensive caregiver benefits to veterans injured prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and this new law is a major step in ensuring no disabled veteran is left behind again. We celebrate this historic legislation, but we cannot proclaim “mission accomplished” until all veterans have access to the benefits they earned through service.
That same month, the House passed H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, which would correct a long-standing wrong for thousands of veterans who served on ships during the Vietnam War and later became ill from their service. Approximately 90,000 Navy veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam were potentially exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides, but they haven’t been given the same presumption of service-connected disability for Agent Orange-related illnesses as their fellow veterans who served on the ground.
H.R. 299 would correct this injustice by providing many Blue Water Navy veterans the same presumption of exposure to Agent Orange that already exists for those who served in country. Supporting legislation that expands presumption of exposure to Agent Orange has long been a resolution DAV has rallied behind. DAV recently testified on the measure before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and will keep members updated as this legislation moves forward.
After an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House, we now call on the Senate to take similar action on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act so that it can be sent to the president and finally signed into law this year.
Advocate at davcan.org.
If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.