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28th Legislature(2013-2014)

Bill Text 28th Legislature


00 Enrolled HJR 25                                                                                                         
01 Urging the United States Congress to restore the presumption of a service connection for                                
02 Agent Orange exposure to United States Veterans who served in the waters defined by and in                              
03 the airspace over the combat zone in Vietnam; and urging the United States Congress to pass                             
04 the Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2013 and to establish a                                  
05 national center for the diagnosis, treatment, and research of health conditions of descendants                          
06 of veterans exposed to toxic substances.                                                                                
07                                          _______________                                                                
08 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                             
09      WHEREAS, during the Vietnam War, the United States military sprayed over                                         
10 19,000,000 gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over Vietnam to reduce forest cover                             
11 and crops used by the enemy; those herbicides contained dioxin, which has since been                                    
12 identified as carcinogenic and has been linked with numerous serious and disabling diseases                             
13 affecting thousands of veterans; and                                                                                    
14      WHEREAS the United States Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to                                        
15 address the plight of veterans exposed to herbicides while serving in the Republic of Vietnam;                          
01 the Act amended Title 38 of the United States Code presumptively to recognize as service-                               
02 connected certain diseases among military personnel who served in Vietnam between 1962                                  
03 and 1975; that presumption has provided access to appropriate disability compensation and                               
04 medical care for Vietnam veterans diagnosed with illnesses such as Type II diabetes,                                    
05 Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple                               
06 myeloma, peripheral neuropathy, AL Amyloidosis respiratory cancers, and soft tissue                                     
07 sarcomas, and others yet to be identified; and                                                                          
08      WHEREAS, under a 2001 directive, the United States Department of Veterans                                        
09 Affairs has denied the presumption of a service connection for herbicide-related illnesses to                           
10 Vietnam veterans who cannot furnish written documentation that they had "boots on the                                   
11 ground" in-country, making it virtually impossible for countless United States Navy, Marine,                            
12 and Air Force veterans to pursue their claims for benefits; moreover, personnel who served on                           
13 ships in the "Blue Water Navy" in Vietnamese territorial waters were, in fact, exposed to                               
14 dangerous airborne toxins, which not only drifted offshore but washed into streams and rivers                           
15 draining into the South China Sea; and                                                                                  
16      WHEREAS the United States Navy has been excluded from coverage under the                                         
17 Agent Orange Act of 1991 although Agent Orange has been verified, through various studies                               
18 and reports, to be a wide-spreading chemical that was able to reach Navy ships through the air                          
19 and through waterborne distribution routes; and                                                                         
20      WHEREAS warships positioned off the Vietnamese coast routinely distilled seawater                                
21 to obtain potable water; a 2002 Australian study found that the distillation process, rather than                       
22 removing toxins, in fact concentrated dioxin in water used for drinking, cooking, and                                   
23 washing; the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs conducted that study after it found                              
24 that Vietnam veterans of the Royal Australian Navy had a higher rate of mortality from                                  
25 diseases associated with Agent Orange than did Vietnam veterans of other branches of the                                
26 military; and                                                                                                           
27      WHEREAS the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a                                     
28 higher risk of specific cancers among United States Navy veterans than among veterans of                                
29 other branches of the military; and                                                                                     
30      WHEREAS herbicides containing dioxin did not discriminate between soldiers on the                                
31 ground and sailors on ships offshore; and                                                                               
01      WHEREAS Representative Christopher Gibson and 168 cosponsors, including                                          
02 Representative Don Young, introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013;                                  
03 and                                                                                                                     
04      WHEREAS more than 30 veterans' service organizations support the Blue Water                                      
05 Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013; and                                                                                  
06      WHEREAS, by not passing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, a                                      
07 precedent could be set selectively to provide certain groups with injury-related medical care                           
08 while denying that care to other groups, without any financial, scientific, or consistent                               
09 reasoning; and                                                                                                          
10      WHEREAS, when the Agent Orange Act of 1991 passed with no dissenting votes,                                      
11 congressional leaders stressed the importance of responding to the health concerns of Vietnam                           
12 veterans and ending the bitterness and anxiety that had surrounded the issue of herbicide                               
13 exposure; the federal government has also demonstrated its awareness of the hazards of Agent                            
14 Orange exposure through its involvement in the identification, containment, and mitigation of                           
15 dioxin "hot spots" in Vietnam; and                                                                                      
16      WHEREAS the United States Congress should reaffirm the nation's commitment to                                    
17 the well-being of all of its veterans and direct the United States Department of Veterans                               
18 Affairs to administer the Agent Orange Act of 1991 under the presumption that herbicide                                 
19 exposure in the Republic of Vietnam included inland waterways, offshore waters, and                                     
20 airspace, encompassing the entire combat zone; and                                                                      
21      WHEREAS S. 1602 was introduced in the United States Senate on October 29, 2013,                                  
22 by Senator Richard Blumenthal; and                                                                                      
23      WHEREAS S. 1602 would establish a national center for the diagnosis, treatment,                                  
24 and research of health conditions of descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances                                
25 during service in the armed forces of the United States, provide services to those descendants,                         
26 and establish an advisory board on exposure to toxic substances;                                                        
27      BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                         
28 Congress to restore the presumption of a service connection for Agent Orange exposure to                                
29 United States Veterans who served in the waters defined by the combat zone and in the                                   
30 airspace over the combat zone; and be it                                                                                
31      FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                       
01 Congress to pass S. 1602, the Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of                                
02 2013, and to establish a national center for the diagnosis, treatment, and research of health                           
03 conditions of descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances.                                                    
04      COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Barack Obama, President of                              
05 the United States; the Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice-President of the United States and                          
06 President of the U.S. Senate; the Honorable John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of                                  
07 Representatives; the Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate; the                                      
08 Honorable Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate; the Honorable Bernie                                     
09 Sanders, Chair, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs; the Honorable Richard Burr,                                 
10 Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs; the Honorable Eric K.                                       
11 Shinseki, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs; and the Honorable Lisa Murkowski and                             
12 the Honorable Mark Begich, U.S. Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, U.S.                                             
13 Representative, members of the Alaska delegation in Congress.                                                           
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