PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Veterans descended on Bay Pines VA Medical Center in Florida Thursday to protest what they’re calling discrimination.
“Our country sent us to war and we expected them to take care of us, and they won’t do it,” said Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Mike Kvintus.
Kvintus rallied in front of the VA with fellow Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, sailors who served in Vietnam’s territorial waters, as well as personnel who served on Guam and in Thailand. All of these vets say they’ve been unfairly excluded from Agent Orange benefits and coverage.
“We’re being discriminated against,” explained Marine veteran Brian Moyer, who served on Guam. “Agent Orange does not discriminate, the government does, it’s that simple.”
The VA stripped Agent Orange benefits from Moyer and other military personnel who were not boots on the ground in Vietnam. Those who served in Vietnam and developed certain diseases are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and are therefore eligible for medical coverage and disability benefits.
Navy deck logs obtained by WFLA show Mike Kvintus was on the destroyer in Da Nang harbor watching as the military sprayed Agent Orange from above. He suffers from conditions tied to Agent Orange exposure, but he was denied benefits. The VA says his illnesses are not tied to exposure.
Through his efforts and the efforts of others, 319 members of the U.S. House of Representatives backed a bill restoring benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans, but the bill failed to get out of committee last week.
“They can stand up and say they co-sponsored, but when we ask them for the money to fund our bill they turn their backs on us and they tells us we don’t have any funds for you,” said Kvintus.
“That tells us we are nothing more than garbage in the eyes of the government,” added Moyer.
According to testimony in Congress, we are losing an average of 523 Vietnam Veterans each day.
Veterans hope President Trump will break this impasse and sign an executive order restoring their benefits.