Wife Wonders if Vet was Exposed to AO

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My husband served on the USS Calvert outside of Viet Nam. As a Boat Cox'n, he transported Marines to shore. He was diagnosed with diabetes type II. He died of asbestos lung cancer. Perhaps sailors on the USS Calvert were exposed to Agent Orange. The Navy takes no responsibility for either the diabetes or cancer.

Just information to consider.

Thank you for listening, Linda Via the internet

Dear Linda,

The VA acknowledges some Navy boats and ships may have been exposed to Agent Orange. There is a web page on the VA site that lists the ships: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/list.asp. The Calvert is listed:

Calvert (APA-32) (Amphibious Attack Transport): Entered inland waters of Qui Nhon Bay during October 1965, Served as Da Nang Harbor station ship with crewmembers going ashore from November 1965 through January 1966.

If your husband was on the ship during that time period, please make a claim. I recommend you use a Veteran Service Office (VSO) to help complete the claim and do a fully developed claim.

Shaft Notes

• The National Commander of The American Legion slammed a Department of Defense proposal to shut down all military-run grocery stores in the United States as just "another plan to punish veterans" for Washington's inability to balance the budget.

"As we count our blessings on Thanksgiving, shouldn't we remember that it is our veterans and our military that have kept us safe and free?" asked American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger. "And shouldn't that gratitude extend everyday and not just on holidays? Many military retirees are on fixed incomes and rely on these commissaries. They devoted a life of service to this nation. Their health insurance premiums are going up and the Pentagon openly considers cuts to pay and benefits for those still serving in harm's way. Is it too much to ask that other areas of the federal government be cut and that the men and women who have already sacrificed so much for this country be allowed to keep the benefits that they have earned? They have already paid an enormous price to be eligible for these benefits, far more than what it is costing the treasury. Enough is enough. Veterans benefits are a cost of war and a free society."

Dellinger also pointed out that many military retirees have chosen to live in communities based on their proximity to commissaries and military exchanges. Delegates at The American Legion national convention in 2012 unanimously passed a resolution opposing any efforts "to dismantle or downsize the Defense Commissary Agency."

Hiring Vets at 20 year high. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management just announced that this year the Executive Branch of Government hired the highest percentage (28.9%) of military veterans in over 20 years. In the past four years we've seen a 15% growth in veteran hiring; today veterans make up nearly 30% of the federal workforce. An example of this administration's innovative approach was seen yesterday where Secretary Kerry, Congresswoman Gabbard, Administrator Shah and I announced the State Department's new Veteran Innovation Partnership, providing a path for qualified veterans to gain experience in diplomacy.

• Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, today applauded the committee's passage of H.R. 3521, which authorizes 27 VA medical facility leases, including the clinic consolidation planned for Pasco County.

"The 27 leases approved by this legislation will allow the VA to better serve our nation's heroes throughout the country," said Bilirakis. "In Pasco County, we are especially grateful, as the consolidation of our medical clinics into one property will ease veterans' access to healthcare and create a one-stop shop to better address their needs. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to see this legislation become law as quickly as possible."

H.R. 3521 provides the necessary technical authorization the VA lacked to carry out certain medical facility leases and consolidations. To watch the Congressman's opening remarks in support of the legislation.

• Thirty-two Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities from across the nation were recently recognized as "top performers" by the independent panel that accredits and certifies health care organizations.

"We are proud of the medical facilities that have been recognized for demonstrating VA's commitment to provide the high-quality care our Veterans have earned through their service," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This achievement highlights the hard work of our VA medical staff to serve Veterans."

The recognition came from The Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that ensures the quality of U.S. health care by its intensive evaluation of more than 20,000 health care organizations.

While all 151 VA medical facilities are accredited by The Joint Commission, the list recognizes facilities that are the top performers based on The Joint Commission's annual review of evidence-based care that is closely linked to positive patient outcomes. This program recognizes Joint Commission-accredited hospitals for a significant achievement in accountability and performance measures.

The Joint Commission recognized 19 VA medical facilities as top performers in 2011/2012 and 20 VA medical facilities in 2010. Nine VA facilities have been rated as top performersfor two consecutive years — a noteworthy distinction.

The top VA performers cited by the commission are the include the following medical facilities:

Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center * Tuscaloosa, Ala.
VA Loma Linda Healthcare System Loma Linda, Calif.
VA San Diego Healthcare System San Diego, Calif.
Grand Junction VA Medical Center * Grand Junction, Colo.
Wilmington VA Medical Center * Wilmington, Del.
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Bay Pines, Fla.
Carl Vinson VA Medical Center Dublin, Ga.
Marion VA Medical Center Marion, Ill.
VA Northern Indiana Health Care System Fort Wayne, Ind.
Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital Columbia, Mo.

An asterisk denotes a top performer rating for a second or third year.

In addition to being named in this report, this year's top performers are highlighted at www.jointcommission.org and The Joint Commission's Quality Check website at www.qualitycheck.org .

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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