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SGT. SHAFT: Was ship in Vietnam exposed to Agent Orange?

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

A friend of mine who recently passed from cancer was in Vietnam on the USS Hoel DDG 13. The ship had several missions in Vietnam, but it is not on the VA ships list. His daughter is trying to help get compensation for her mother. Can you help?

Stuart O.
Via the Internet

Dear Stuart:

If you think a ship should be on the list and you are not filing a claim, you may conduct your own research and submit documentary evidence to VA.

Documentary evidence includes deck logs, ship histories and cruise book entries. You may obtain ship deck logs from the National Archives at
College Park, Md.

This evidence must show the ship entering the inland waterways of Vietnam, docking in Vietnam or otherwise sending crew members ashore. A ship that anchored in an open water harbor, such as Da Nang Harbor, is not sufficient evidence for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure. You must scan your documentary evidence and email it to the Veterans Benefits Administration's Compensation Service at 211_AOSHIPS.VBACO@va.gov. Emails sent to this email address are not secure, so do not include personal data.

Shaft notes

• A Shaft shot to the Small Business Administration for eliminating the veteran's advocacy award as part of the competition that recognizes various groups for their contribution to America's small business. SBA sponsors the annual National Small Business Week (NSBW), part of which includes an award ceremony. The categories have included Financial Small Business Champion, Minority Small Business Champion, Women in Business Champion of the Year, etc. ...

This year, the SBA has eliminated a number of pre-existing categories and has substituted other categories to include:

* National Small Business Person of the Year (chosen from among state award winners from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam);
* Phoenix Awards (recognizing outstanding accomplishments during disaster recovery);
* Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year;
* Small Business Subcontractor of the Year;
* The Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Excellence (recognizes large prime contractors who have used small businesses as suppliers and contractors);
* SBA 8(a) Graduate of the Year (for recent graduates of the SBA's 8(a) contracting program);
* Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Excellence and Innovation Award (nominations of SBA-funded SBDC Service Centers);
* Women's Business Center (WBCs) of Excellence Award (nominations of SBA-funded WBCs);
* Veterans Business Outreach Center Excellence in Service Award (nominations of SBA-funded Veterans Business Outreach Centers).

These new award categories are primarily a self-serving list of which many of the categories are those that the SBA funds.

Eliminating the Veterans Small Business Champion Award is a bad decision.

First, this decision was made without any input from leadership in the veterans community, or even within veterans representatives within the SBA. Essentially, it was rolled out under the cover of night. Secondly, this decision is at odds with this administration's pronouncements of being pro-veteran. Furthermore, this decision is inconsistent with SBA's own initiatives such as "Boots to Business," which was rolled out this summer at Quantico by Karen Mills, the SBA administrator. And, by the SBA's own government procurement scorecard, most federal agencies miss their SDVOB procurement goals.

The SBA knows this. It is incomprehensible for the SBA to then eliminate a category designed to inspire, encourage and recognize those individuals (to include those in the civilian/private sector) who advocate day and night to help and promote veteran-owned small businesses.

The Sarge urges the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to have those apparatchiks at the SBA who are responsible for this disgraceful action march up to the Veterans Affairs and justify their outrageous decision.

• Five new members have been appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women veterans.

"VA relies on the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to provide insight on key issues that impact the women veteran population. The committee's recommendations provide guidance that direct VA's efforts to identify and address the diverse needs of women veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA welcomes the newest members."

Established in 1983, the committee makes recommendations to the secretary for administrative and legislative changes. The new committee members, who are appointed to two-year terms, are: Gina Chandler, Bryant, Ark.; Larri Gerson, Dunedin, Fla.; Mary Morin, Raymond, N.H.; Charlotte S. Smith, Farmington, N.M.; and Mary Westmoreland, Bronxville, N.Y.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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