NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Fifty years ago they were warriors, America’s military fighting a war in Vietnam. Today these veterans are parents and grandparents, and many like Mike Kvintus of New Port Richey are sick.
“I would fight for this country today,” Mike said. He suffers chronic kidney and heart disease, along with neuropathy in his arms and legs, conditions he claims are connected to Agent Orange exposure.
Mike and 90,000 other sailors who served on ships in harbors and waters off Vietnam are now fighting the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate benefits it stripped away 14 years ago.
“It just eats at me because I still support the country,” Mike added.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015 would restore those benefits. 8 On Your Side contacted Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, to ask where he stood on it. He then signed on.
“Instead of slamming our fist and a stiff arm to the veteran, let’s give the presumption of the evidence to the veteran,” Nelson said.
After we inquired, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, also backed the bill.
However, the chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Congressman, Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, has not allowed the bill out of committee. It remains stalled.
There was no such delay when his country sent Mike to war on the destroyer U.S.S. Buchanan. The ship provided support fire for ground troops and rescued downed pilots. According to deck logs, the Buchanan sailed into Da Nang Harbor, as the military drenched the area with the herbicide.
The Buchanan’s distillation system turned salt water into drinking water. Two studies show that was a pathway for Agent Orange exposure.
Declassified records now show several water barges carrying potable water from areas of Vietnam that were heavily sprayed supplied U.S. ships. Still, that is not enough proof for the VA. It claims only those who served on land or in rivers qualify for Agent Orange benefits. To sick and dying veterans, that information is a smoking gun.
“I expected my country to take care of me and they haven’t done it,” Mike said.WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON RIGHT NOW:
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