Veterans Affairs

Continuing on my pledge from the most recent edition of the Digest to highlight some of the great work from our many Veterans Affairs State Chairman, I will take this month’s report to highlight a document brought to my attention by Danny Boy Crawford, the Florida Veterans Affairs Chairman. As Danny Boy points out, this could affect thousands of our veterans. At issue is a letter issued by the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This document – Training Letter 10-06 – which has been sent to all VA Regional Offices has the somewhat lengthy title: Adjudicating Disability Claims Based on Herbicide Exposure from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Veterans of the Vietnam Era. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regulations provide Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam with the presumption of herbicide exposure due to widespread use of Agent Orange and other herbicides during U.S. military operations within the country. This allows for service connection on a presumptive basis for certain diseases that are associated with such exposure. VA limits the presumption of exposure to Veterans who served on the ground or on the inland waterways of Vietnam and excludes Veterans who served aboard ships operating on Vietnam’s offshore waters. However, VA has become increasingly aware of evidence showing that some offshore U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships also operated temporarily on Vietnam’s inland waterways or docked to the shore.

Additionally, the VA has recently acquired evidence showing that certain ships operated primarily on the inland waterways rather than offshore. Veterans who served aboard these ships qualify for the presumption of herbicide exposure. Assisting Veterans who served aboard these ships requires special claims processing steps that are explained in this training letter. Bottom line – if you are a Navy or Coast Guard veteran who may be affected by herbicide related diseases and have not received proper compensation from the VA, go back to your regional office and tell them they should refer to Training Letter 10-06 and follow the special claims processing steps.

A quick update on the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Remember that AMS has the mission of serving Catholics in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, VA Medical Centers and government service overseas. What a wonderful mission! As one can imagine, the need for clergy is great. In the past I have addressed the co-sponsored seminarian program. I am happy to report that two of the co-sponsored seminarians were ordained in June, and there should be at least thirty in the seminary for the fall term! Our prayers for more vocations, especially for service to the military must continue. Realize that half of the cost of educating and supporting these seminarians is the responsibility of the Archdiocese of the Military Services. I ask you to keep the AMS high on your list of places to support, both prayerfully and financially.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.



Veterans Affairs

Pictured (L to R) JJ Kelly, VA Delegate Edward T. Scott, VA State Board President Rich Aleksy, and VA State Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin.

On April 24th, I was pleased and honored to have been able to be a part of a presentation by Virginia Delegate Ed Scott to VA State Board President Rich Aleksy and Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin. The Commonwealth of Virginia has designated March 30th of each year as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day to honor the service and contributions of the Commonwealth’s Vietnam-era veterans. Co-sponsored by Delegate Ed Scott and Virginia State Senator Ed Houck, the bill, which was pushed by brother Halpin, passed unanimously through both houses. Per Delegate Scott at the presentation, this is an unusual occurrence. Thank you brother Halpin and all the Virginia state senators and delegates for this wonderful and appreciated piece of legislation.

I have received a request from one of our brothers for help on pursuing a claim through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during 1957 through 1959. He believes the defoliants used at Gitmo during that period are responsible for the multiple cancers from which he now suffers. No such term such as Agent Orange existed at that time. As an aside, the term Agent Orange probably came from the color of the containers in which it was shipped. Anyway, if anyone has any information relating to use of defoliants at Gitmo during that period, please forward it to me so we can assist this brother in his VA claim.

Congratulations again to Black Jack Kehoe Division for their continuing support of Operation First Response and the Walk for the Wounded at Rose Tree Park, Media, PA, on May 22nd. By the time you read this, that march and its related activities will be history. I plan to join our brothers on that date for an outstanding event to help put a soldier back on his feet. The 2009 walk raised over $150,000. This year’s goal is $175,000. Donations to this wonderful organization can be made at

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Virginia News

The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to be very busy.  After many years our State Organizer Brother Paul McFadden organized a new division in Powhatan, Virginia named for Msgr. Charles A. Kelly, Jr.  Congratulations to the Charter Division President Michael McGee and his newly elected officers.  On April 24, 2010 as part of our State Meeting we conducted a Shamrock Degree by the Major Dooley Degree Team and the Major Degree by the Brian Boru Degree Team.  There were 35 Brothers who received their Degrees.  We are all looking forward to the upcoming National Convention.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day – The Virginia AOH initiated action to formally recognize past, current, and future contributions of Vietnam and Vietnam-era military veterans resident in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They suggested a bill that would annually proclaim 30 March as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” and encourage observance of that day with ceremonies and activities that promote recognition of the contributions of those involved in the Vietnam conflict. It was on 30 March 1973, that the United States Armed Forces completed the withdrawal of combat troops from Vietnam.  District 30 Delegate Ed Scott agreed to champion this legislation.  As a result, House Joint Resolution Number 136 now designates March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in Virginia to celebrate the service and numerous contributions of the Commonwealth’s Vietnam-era veterans.”  The resolution notes that more than 58,000 members of the United States Armed Forces, including 1,304 Virginians, lost their lives in Vietnam and more than 300,000 members of the Armed Forces were wounded.  Further, the resolution notes that more than 262,000 Vietnam veterans currently reside in the Commonwealth.  Delegate Ed Scott presented a framed copy of the joint resolution at the VA AOH state meeting in Richmond on 24 April.