Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reaching out to North Carolina Senate General Assembly

Email sent to all Senators of North Carolina Delegation on 16 Aug, 2014
NO Replies to date
Dear Senator …………..,

As the 113th Congress draws to a close, we are again faced with reaching an agreement to insure that some 30,000 WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners will finally obtain veteran status that has been out of reach for over 70 years.  History can be made by securing this recognition for these aging seafarers.

Amendments from both sides of the Congress to the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) contain bills identifying recognition for the mariners.  HR 1288 and S-1361, WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act are incorporated within HR 4435 and S 2410 respectively.

As you know the WW II Merchant Marine were granted veteran status by court ruling via Schmacher, Willner, et al, V. Secretary of the Air Force, Edward C. Aldridge, Jr 665 Supp 41 (D.D.C. 1987).  Yet, many of the coastwise mariners cannot obtain their due status because of government intervention and these bills will correct this issue.  Every county in North Carolina has stepped up and offered support via one facet or another indicating that  the citizens and Representatives of North Carolina  are supportive and want our veterans to gain their due status as veterans.

These bills will for the first time ever allow some elderly handicapped, schoolchildren and women seafarers to gain their rightful status as veterans.  Specific actions of our government have prevented some of these mariners from obtaining their status.  Due to those actions, alternative methods of recognition are required to replace documents that have been destroyed, denied or not issued to some of the 30,000 coastwise mariner who manned old outdated barges and tugs that moved war material to defense plants along enemy contested waters of our coastal ports.

The WW II Coastwise Mariners respectfully request your support in making this a reality.  Our Senate will soon vote on the NDAA and we need your assistance to insure that their passage contain the specifics of HR 1288 and S 1361.  To assure this becomes a reality we respectfully request that you identify your support to Senator Burr with a request that he directs his complete attention and support toward passage of the NDAA bill complete with the WW II amendments within.

Senator Burr has not demonstrated support for the two bills (HR 1288 & S-1361) regarding WW II Merchant Mariner Service Act. He feels a legislative change would allow individuals to provide non-military records in order to receive veteran status would set an unnecessary precedent.  However, non-military records has been used by the merchant marine to demonstrate service has been in use since 1937 (see attach #3).  We believe he is relying on misinformation relating specifically to our bill. Those details are enclosed as one of the attachments and the other is an analysis of the overall situation.  Since the staff of the Senator has chosen to provide their view of the issue then, in all fairness, we should have the opportunity for rebuttal. Please review and utilize as necessary to assist in getting the true facts to the Senator.

This may be the last opportunity to assist these mariners as most have already crossed the bar and the few remaining are losing interest after 70 years of waiting with no results.  We need to make good on our promised to support our veterans and we must do this.  Can we count on you to reach out to Senator Burr and request his support in making a dream come true for a few old seamen?  Thank you for your consideration and your service to our country via the NC Delegation.

Please provide confirmation and intent.  Thank you.

Very Respectfully,
J Don Horton, veteran WW II & Korean War

J. Don Horton, President
WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners
104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921
252 336 5553


WW II MARINERS GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE....NEED YOUR HELP

WW II MERCHANT MARINERS SERVICE ACT.  SUPPORT NEEDED
WW II-era merchant mariners won their long struggle for official recognition as veterans only in 1988; and then only after an 11 year court battle. Yet, the majority of those mariners have not been recognized as veterans of this nation. Among them were a particular group of about 30,000 seafarers who served aboard coastwise barges and tugs, especially along the East Coast of the United States, transporting critical domestic bulk cargoes to factories and refineries. These factories and refineries turned the bulk cargoes into the war materials and equipment necessary to keep the enemy at bay and our shores free from the aggressors. While they did not cross the seas as did many of their fellow merchant mariners and Armed Guard colleagues, these mariners nonetheless found themselves in harm’s way; sometimes being attacked and sunk by German U-Boats. Many died.
Now the few remaining survivors of these barge and tug crews find that they often cannot establish their eligibility for veteran status, through no fault of their own. Documentation that would verify their service was not maintained in the first place, or was lost or destroyed many years ago. Some were denied outright due to their age, sex or disability. Our bill in congress HR 1288 WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act was amended and incorporated within the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act HR 4435, which was voted on and passed the House and moved to the Senate awaiting a match-up with the impending Senate  National Defense Authorization Act, S 2410.
There is a companion bill to HR 1288, S-1361, in the Senate that has been amended and incorporated within the Senate bill S 2410. This will provide our WW II Coastwise mariners the opportunity to gain their due recognition as veterans.
If you share this concern, please contact your Senators and tell them that you support this effort and want them to do the same. Insist that this travesty, ongoing for 70 years, be corrected and allow the few remaining mariners gain their due recognition because it is the right thing to do.

Note: We must complete our actions before this congress competes this session or all is lost and the bills die in congress. "

We need to uphold a moral obligation and correct a national travesty ongoing for over 70 years.

More info at blog:    https://usmmv.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners update.

NEWS ADVISORY
For Immediate Release: August 19, 2014
Contact: J. Don Horton, 252 336 5553
1075 Concerned Citizens Sign "WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act Requiring Senate Action" petition
On August 25, the WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners will deliver a petition to The United States Senate signed by 1075 concerned citizens.
The petition was created on MoveOn's petition website and states:
"We the undersigned respectfully request your participation as cosponsor to both HR 2189 and S 1361 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service At” with full support through the senate and to law. Public Law 95-202 bestowed veteran status on US Merchant Marine Seamen of WW II; however, because of specific government actions and social conditions some 10 to 30 thousand coastwise merchant seamen may have been denied their due recognition. Action in both houses must be taken to correct this travesty.
Every state was a major contributor to this effort, both in materials and manpower. This bill requires such methods of recognition to include Social Security Records and sworn testimony from the veteran or their next of kin, (a practice going back to post-Revolutionary War times). This bill will, for the first time, allow women, some school children and some elderly handicapped seamen the opportunity to gain due recognition as veterans. They performed the same duties as credentialed mariners, received wages and paid their taxes. Today we would call this, discrimination. We take supporting our veterans seriously and want our members of congress to do likewise.
HR 1288 was introduced in the house, then incorporated into HR 2189 and successfully passed the House. S 1361 was introduced in the Senate on 23 Jul,. Now both reside in the Senate VA Committee. Accordingly, we, your constituents, respectfully request immediate action be taken to cosponsor and fully support both HR 2189 and S 1361. Please keep in mind that these bills transcend all party and geographical lines and are an American issue and members of the congress have a moral duty to support our veterans. therefore we want your action to take place immediately."
We are attempting to gain recognition for some 10 to 30,000 Coastwise Mariners from WW II who sailed on barges and tugs without the required credentials due to the documents being lost, destroyed or denied.
To read the petition go to;

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reaching Out to our Real PATRIOTS

Ahoy American Patriots
Over the years, Americans have chosen to serve for many reasons—during the Revolutionary War, to create a nation, in WW II, to save humanity from destruction; at various times to help pay our bills. Still, no matter the motivation once our men and women joined up, they’ve given their all for our country.
During World War II, thousands of Americans stepped forward to serve as an extension of our armed forces when our nation was in great need. They served as merchant mariners. These brave men and women for far too long have been denied the proper recognition of their service.
The success of the mariners, during World War II, is best summed up by General Douglas MacArthur who stated, “I hold no branch in higher esteem than the Merchant Marine.” Motivated by a duty to their country, the men and women of the Merchant Marine valiantly risked their lives to provide the war effort with the necessary supplies, including troops, food, ammunition, tanks, winter boots, bombs, airplanes, fuel and raw materials.
Because of a news blackout, allied propaganda, and frankly embarrassment over what was their abject failure to protect vital shipping and supply lines for over a year, the general public in the region and the world at large knew little of anything of the magnitude and specifics of the many hundreds of attacks and sinkings of our small merchant fleet during the first two years of the war
Our Merchant Marine suffered one of the highest losses of life delivering the troops and supplies to all theaters of operations during the war. We manned the cargo ships, tankers, and troop ships while enduring some of the most violent conditions from the oceans to enemy ships and submarines.
We were given the status of World War II veterans by court order in 1987, long after the war, but received none of the GI benefits other than medical assistance at Veterans Administration clinics and hospitals.
"We're running out of time on the merchant mariners. There are now only about 7,000 of these seamen still living and World War II veterans are dying at a rate of between 800 and 1,000 a day, the Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated.
There are between 8,000 and 10,000 merchant mariners still living. So many of us today take for granted those who offered, suffered and even died for this great country. We haven't a clue as to the cost of the freedom we so carelessly enjoy today.
World War II-era merchant mariners won their long struggle for official recognition as veterans only in 1988; and then only after an 11 year court battle. Among them were several thousand merchant sailors who served on ocean-going tugs and barges, especially along the East Coast of the United States, transporting critical domestic bulk cargoes to factories and refineries where they were turned into the war materials and equipment necessary to keep the enemy at bay and our shores free from the aggressors. While they did not cross the seas as did many of their fellow merchant mariner and Armed Guard colleagues, these men nonetheless found themselves in harm's way, sometimes being attacked and sunk by German U-boats. Many died. Now the few remaining survivors of these tug and barge crews find that they often cannot establish their eligibility for veteran status, through no fault of their own. Documentation that would verify their service was not maintained in the first place, or was lost or destroyed many years ago.
We must find a way before all is lost to history, including those who served and have never been recognized. We must insure that this travesty is clarified and steps taken to correct and insure it have been accomplished. Congress must be notified of our concern and they take the necessary measures to insure those that served are recognized for their services.
We must stand up for our own and we must tell congress what needs to be done and expect they do what is being asked. Sign our Petition so our mariners may finally, after over 70 years, get their veteran status they so rightfully deserve.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WW II Coastwise Mariners Still Struggle for Recognition as Veterans


Although America advocates strong support for our veterans,  an estimated 1,000 surviving World War II U.S. coastwise merchant mariners continue their battle with  Congress to collect benefits they were promised but have been denied for decades, including burials in the country’s 120 national cemeteries.

The WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners implores our Senators to expedite passage of The World War II Merchant Marine Service Act. It is a provision of H.R. 4435 -- the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 22, 2014.  The WW II Merchant Mariners  Service Act is also a provision of S 2410 – the National Defense Authorization Act that is awaiting Senate approval.

In October, 2013, the Merchant Marine Act was passed as part of H. R. 2189, a bill to improve the processing of disability claims by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Act was drowning in the Senate without action since it was sent to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  Eventually, it failed.

Amidst the current uproar and active investigation of the entire Veterans Affairs Department, these Acts have received little attention.    Now that they are provisions of the National Defense Authorization Acts there is renewed hope for passage.

These last remaining WWII merchant heroes, who dodged Hitler’s Nazi U-Boat torpedoes and Japanese Kamikaze missions, while delivering bulk war materials to defense plants that manufactured the supplies for our U.S. troops, may all be gone before they receive the benefits they rightfully earned, if the matter continues to tread water in the Senate.

The 2014 bills will make it easier for World War II coastwise merchant marine veterans to qualify for VA benefits. While the 1977 Act recognized WWII merchant mariners as combat veterans, the criteria for benefit qualifications, including documentation of actual service, are difficult to meet. The 2014 Acts reduce the amount of documentation necessary to prove World War II service to Homeland Security officials.

These required documents were lost, denied or never issued during the 1942 recruitment rush that included youngsters, seniors, women and even partially disabled mariners that did not qualify for the armed forces but did meet merchant marine standards.

During World War II, thousands of Americans stepped forward to serve as an extension of our armed forces when our nation was in great need.   These brave men and women for far too long have been denied the proper recognition of their service.   The Senate must pass this bill so these fine Americans can finally receive the distinctions they deserve.


Help us make this happen by signing and sharing this petition requesting our US Senators to step up and get the job done to have these few remaining coastwise mariners recognized for their services. @:    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/ww-ii-merchant-mariners

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Letter to Missouri Senators with one to all US Senators

WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners
J. Don Horton, President                                                                         252 336 5553                                                                              jdonhorton@embarqmail.com
104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921                                                                                                                                                       http://usmmv.blogspot.com
                                                                                                                                                                               18 Jul, 2014

The Honorable Claire McCaskill, D-MO                                              The Honorable Roy Blunt, R-MO
Member US Senate                                                                              Member US Senate
506 Hart SOB, Wash. DC 20510                                                        260 Russell SOB. Wash. DC 20510

Dear Senators McCaskill and Blunt,

On behalf some 30,000 WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners and their families, we urge you to support S-1361, the World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act. Its companion legislation in the House, HR 1288, had over 93 bipartisan cosponsors, and has been incorporated into the NDAA. S. 1361 has been amended and incorporated into S. 2410, the NDAA.

This legislation would significantly help World War II Merchant Mariner gain their overdue status as veterans for services to our country.  Historians estimate that between 250,000 to 410,000 Mariners served, yet only 91,000 have been recognized as veterans.  This gap is partly caused by the difficulty in meeting verification requirements for Mariners, which include certificates of shipping/discharge, discharge books, logbooks and company letters showing vessel names and dates of voyages. A 1987 court order bestowed veteran status, but required documentation are almost impossible for many Mariners to acquire; the CMDT USCG Order of 20 March 1944 relieved masters of tugs, towboats, and seagoing barges of the responsibility of submitting reports; the War Shipping Administration (WSA)  kept continuous discharge books, which were destroyed in the 1970s. Two of the three acceptable forms of documentation for eligibility are simply not available to many of the mariners.  Cost is no issue as CBO states it as DeMinimis.

The challenge this burden creates for female WWII mariners is even greater.  As the WSA, Adm. Emory S. Land, declared that there was no place in the Merchant Marine for women, the US Coast Guard did not document women or schoolchildren who served. Many served anyway and did what was asked of them and without any recognition for their work. They served in every position on board.  They performed the same duties and experienced the same dangers other documented seafarers faced from the enemy German U-boats menacing our Coastal waters. They were paid salaries and Social Security taxes were taken from their wages, yet they will not receive the recognition they earned unless S.1361 is passed via the National Defense Authorization Act, S-2410.

We seek your support as cosponsors to S-1361 and S-2410 in easing the burdens for our World War II Merchant Marine veterans.  It is the right thing to do.  Thank you for your support
Very Respectfully,
J. Don Horton

J. Don Horton. President                                                     Fax To:          202 228 6326 & 202 224 8149 

Lost/Denied Records Prevent WW II Merchant Mariners from Gaining Recognition as Veterans.

LOSS OF RECORDS FOR VETERANS STILL CONTINUES
Our American veterans are continually denied recognition and benefits for their services due to lack of records to verify eligibility of service.  More often than we care to believe it is not the fault of the veteran.  Current regulations place the responsibility upon the veteran to prove eligibility of service.  The veteran relies on the US Government processes to compile and maintain those records.  Legislation is in place to insure those records are contained and protected but there have been too many veterans denied rights because records do not exist to prove their eligibility for benefits and recognition.

Oversight inspections at various agencies continually reveal discrepancies in the maintenance of records for our veterans in all military services including the merchant marine. A press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) dated 16 October, 2008 revealed the VA inspector general earlier this month found problems with documents improperly marked for disposal at benefits offices in four cities: St. Petersburg, Detroit, St. Louis and Waco. While the IG continued, the VA began a separate inquiry that found nearly 500 documents improperly placed in shredder bins in about two thirds of the agency’s 57 benefits offices. 

Generally the Inspector General conducts an inspection of their facilities just once every three years.  In this incidence, one inspection brought forth a report that about 67% of one agency’s offices were discovered to be in the process of destroying  pertinent official veterans’ records crucial to receiving benefits or recognition for services.  This finding would suggest that potential for widespread loss of valuable veteran records is exceedingly high and could transcend across all agencies.  If this finding is considered that it occurred on only one day at one activity, then, using this calculation as a yardstick for measure, it is conceivable that it is happening at approximately 67% of all activities on 67% of all work days, and for 67% of all years that records have been required to have been retained. This amounts to staggering numbers of records lost to the veteran when they need them for support of their request for service and recognition.  It appears we have let the veteran down considerably after they have done their part with their service to our country.  They deserve better than this and we are required to provide better than this on their behalf of what they have done for us.

Again, this is just another incident of careless handling, by persons who have been given the responsibility of preserving records of our nation’s veterans. The destruction of those records would very well result in the veteran’s loss of eligibility of deserving benefits the way the system is currently viewed.  Many veterans’ request for eligibility has been denied due to lack of records that verify their service.  A large portion of those denied would have had no problem being certified had the proper authorities simply complied with existing requirements.  In other cases those in authority had little foresight in how important these service documents would be when it comes to gaining recognition for the sacrifices the veteran has given to gain their eligibility. 

This has been a continuing problem confronting those who have served and have fully earned the right to be recognized for their service. There are many veterans who have been denied their due recognition simply because “there is no evidence in your records that attest to your eligibility for services” being written on their returned DD Form 2168s, request for discharge.  A casual review of records having been made by a government employee and simply returned without benefit of knowledge of or not utilizing an existing  system in use for maintaining accurate and complete records as they pertain to an individual’s service to our country is simply not acceptable.
In addition to the ongoing discoveries by the VA IG, other past losses demonstrate the veteran is at a severe disadvantage in proving his eligibility for recognition and benefits:

(1)   The GAO Audit, GAO-06-1010, Sept 2006, cited several deficiencies of the joint services in gathering, obtaining and reporting information relative to the casualty information processing. GAO recommended closer support of agencies and working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to insure the Veteran received the best service possible.  Still, two years after, the mishandling of documents continues. 

(2)   During WW II similar situations occurred that made recognition for services near impossible for some veterans of the US Merchant Marine.  On March 20, 1944, the Commandant of the US Coast Guard issued an order to relieve the masters of tugs, towboats and seagoing barges of the requirement for submitting reports of seaman shipped and discharged on the same form now required to prove his employment for eligibility; affecting many seamen.

(3)   A search of the NARA  at  the Modern Military Records Branch in College Park, MD to retrieve information from ships’ logs for evidence of  employment  brought forth this report, “After World War II, the deck and engineering logbooks of vessels operated by the War Shipping Administration were turned over to that agency by the ship owners, and were later destroyed, by the Maritime Administration, in 1970 on the grounds that they were voluminous, costly to house and service, and very seldom used for research”.

There will always be incidents of human failure be it by inexperience, shortsightedness, inefficiency, or disregard.  Even with the various oversights in place to prevent mishaps, conditions will still exist denying the veteran his recognition for his service unless action is taken to improvise and adapt for the loss of documentation from the fault of others than the veteran.  To date the officials who are responsible for the issuance of eligibility, maintain the responsibility for recognition is that of the veteran.  However, without those documents that are being consistently destroyed by those who are responsible for their safekeeping, the veteran simply cannot prove his position. Measures must be taken to allow for these mishaps and allowances for other means of recognition must be accepted if the veteran is to gain his rightful and well earned recognition for his services and benefits owed to him by our country.  Restrictions on some of those requirements for eligibility must be relaxed and latitude for proof of eligibility must be offered by some means of substitution or other improvising.

The authors of Public Laws 95-202 and 105-368 had good intentions to right a wrong that was unjustly levied on those merchant seamen that served during World War II; but they were never privy to these serious errors that have been committed regarding the maintenance of those records that are now necessary to prove one’s eligibility. If so, provisions would have been made to rectify those thoughtless actions.  Now those authors must be made aware of the problems to satisfy the criteria maintained by the National Maritime Center (NMC) in recognition of services.  As far as can be determined, the NMC does not comply with the instructions specified within the DODI 1300.18.  They rely on their own archaic record keeping and ill-informed personnel to prepare the two most revered documents the services produce, DD 214 and DD 1300.  There are systems in place that would supplement the required information in recommendations within the GAO report GAO 06-1010 if they were implemented.  The SSA can provide necessary information regarding employment dates and names of employing companies for the veteran that will certify employment.  The NMC should adopt the DODI 1300.18 as their implementing instruction for the Casualty Affairs Program, if they are not already required to do so.  Alternative measures are necessary to replace the lost documentation conducted under the auspices of governmental dictate.
A petition is available below to help these mariners gain their overdue and well earned status as veterans. Please sign and share with your friends.
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/ww-ii-merchant-mariners