What I mean is, do I have the RIGHT to demand their assistance in a way beyond the mere exercise of that freedom? Do they have to listen? Do they have to decide whether to respond or can they simply ignore me as they would any other pest?
No – they can't ignore a citizen's voice, although they do. They have to listen, although they often won't. They must respond but seldom do. I still maintain, however, it's their job to listen, their job to care and their oath of office to oblige them to these chores. Below I've listed reasons senators are obliged to listen, and in a perfect world, or in a world where the senator had to account for the resolution of each citizen's complaint...they would listen. Of course, I must emphasize the greater likelihood of them actually listening if good manners are used to conduct a civil discourse!
First reason Senators have to listen to my demands:
I spent the majority of my military career flying aeromedical evacuation. Most of it was years of training for the few days of live medevac missions in an aircraft carrying my fellow soldiers out of harm's way.
If at any moment in my twenty-six years of service I had failed to do my duty, or failed to correct flaws or errors or mistakes, others could have suffered.
Neither the Air Force nor our legislators would tolerate any failure on my part which could result in failure of the aeromedical evacuation mission. Too much was at stake, and still is in today's medevac.
One can imagine the angry roar from the Hill if anybody in the aeromedical evacuation mission simply opted not to do their duty, and allowed patients to suffer and die. Every senator and congressman with patients from their states whom I'd allowed to suffer would be screaming for my head and demanding the most severe penalties under UCMJ.
Our legislators demand that people like me, people who've taken the military oath to serve and obey, will do so to the best of our abilities and to the point of death if necessary.
It stands to reason that if they demand that and more of me because I accepted the obligation to serve and obey, and accepted an office in which I was confirmed by the Senate, I have no less a right to demand they fulfill the duties of their own oaths of office.Second reason Senators have to listen to my demands:
I got sick doing my duty. The science is no longer in question, having been affirmed by the Institute of Medicine report to Secretary McDonald. The law is clear.
But still VA refuses to care for men and women like me who flew these airplanes.
Today I'm old and ill and unable by myself to move the VA to action. I've wasted four of the last years of my life in pursuit of what VA should have offered from Day One. I seek no new legislation, but rather pressure by the Senate on the VA for Secretary McDonald to act.
Forty-one years have passed since my first flights aboard the former Agent Orange spray airplanes. Twenty-one years have passed since the Air Force identified the heavy TCDD contamination in Patches. Four years have passed since the Air Force Surgeon General elected not to inform our C-123 veterans of our Agent Orange exposures "to prevent undue distress" (his actual words!) And just before his decision the USAF quietly destroyed all remaining C-123s as toxic waste.
Years have passed, and these were years the Senate should have been exercising its oversight in these matters to protect us airmen. Years have passed, and the only action by the Senate has been two two joint letters to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and terrific staff support from the teams of Senators Brown, Blumenthal, Wyden, Warren, Merkley, Burr and Bennet. Seven voices among the one hundred, all of whom took an oath which obliged them to protect servicemembers, yet nobody did until Senator Burr's first efforts in 2011.
The law says we should be eligible for VA medical care and benefits. VA says so also, but hasn't gotten around to doing anything to begin caring for surviving our C-123 veterans. I became ill in a line-of-duty situation, the facts of which have been confirmed by numerous federal agencies, universities, VA physicians, and independent scientists. VA should act but still they hesitate. Still VA keep its hospital doors locked to us.
Members of the United States Senate, ninety-three of whom continue to stand silent when I call for help, owe me a good listen. It's their job, because I did my job. My claim, and those of the 2100 men and women I served with, is just and reasonable, provided for in law but lacking only the VA's plan for implementation.Members of the United States Senate, I respectfully demand your consideration of our situation. I respectfully insist you show me and the veterans I represent the same loyalty and excellence in serving us as we served you and our fellow citizens.
It's only right. At least, I can hope. The Senate owes us at least an evaluation of what VA is putting us through, and hopefully when each senator has seen enough of this mess each of you will join your colleagues in demanding VA action. Thank you.