Federal lawmakers push to protect “blue water” vets from Vietnam War

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Gillibrand (center): “We have an obligation to give back to the
brave men and women …”

MAYBROOK – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) and Congressman
Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY18) Monday told area veterans while in Maybrook
they are pushing a bipartisan bill to protect additional Vietnam War veterans
who have succumbed to illness due to Agent Orange exposure.
Currently, the legislation for veteran victims of Agent Orange exposure is specific to only those vets who could prove they have had “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. Since the spraying of the Agent Orange chemical was used to clear jungle foliage, it was believed only those on the mainland were exposed; however, Blue Water Naval veterans, or, those who had served off-shore in territorial waters within 12 miles of the mainland, became exposed through the chemicals that ran off into the ocean.
“A lot of these guys have had very serious health problems that are directly related to Agent Orange and they are not receiving benefits because of an interpretation of the existing legislation that is really leaving them out and it’s unfair and it’s wrong, “said Maloney.

Olszanecki: “These gentlemen
were drinking this water …”

The primary means of exposure was through the use of ocean water on ships and the desalinization practices that, according to Carol Olszanecki, a Blue Water activist and widow of naval veteran John Olszanecki, made the Agent Orange much more toxic.
“What was in Agent Orange but dioxin; dioxin is a deadly poison,” said Olszanecki.  “Whenever you heat dioxin, it increases the potency. So, what was being taken out of that water was salt and salt alone.  These gentleman were drinking this water, they were bathing in it, they were having their food prepared in it and they were ingesting it; this is what was going on.”
It is believed these desalinization practices were very common in the navy there and possibly thousands of veterans have suffered illnesses due to the hyper potent Agent Orange in the water.
This is not a new subject of debate; it has been going on for years.
“We have an obligation to give back to the brave men and women who risked their lives for us because each day that we delay passage of this bill, Vietnam veterans continue to become ill and go bankrupt from trying to pay their medical bills because they were unable to receive coverage from the VA,” said Gillibrand. “We will fight in Washington for as long as it takes to pass this bill and I hope all of you will join me in this fight.”
So far, there are 232 co-sponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate. Gillibrand and Maloney are confident the bill will pass through the House and Senate within six months to a year.