Pat Toro loses battle with leukemia

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (l.) presents Toro with an award during a ceremony at the conclusion of the third-annual Queens Veterans Day Parade in Middle Village.
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Pastor “Pat” Toro, a decorated Forest Hills war veteran and the former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Queens, has lost his battle with Myelodysplastic syndrome.

Toro, 65, died Thursday morning at St. Francis Hospital after going through months of chemotherapy for his malady, a precursor to leukemia, which relatives said was brought on by Agent Orange exposure during his tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corp.

After he returned from Vietnam, Toro worked for the NYPD and Port Authority Police Department before retiring in 1991.

Toro was inducted into the state Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2006.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 1:44 pm, July 3, 2014
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Ray Melninkaitis says:
For more information on exposure and the DVA read A Re-Analysis of Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure

Perhaps the plight of the Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veterans who have died because of a DVA ruling on herbicide exposure should be considered wrongful deaths and be compensated!

Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to numerous health problems, including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, prostate cancer, Type II Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and other issues. In 1991, legislation was enacted that empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses "presumptive" to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled Vietnam veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA limited the authority of the Act to only those veterans who could provide orders for "boots on the ground" in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims with the VA to restore their benefits, which are then decided on a case-by-case basis. After 40 years the evidence needed for these Veterans to obtain benefits no longer exists. Please help correct this inequity.

I urge you, the public, to communicate to Representative Jeff Miller R-FL, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that HR 543, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, now has 225 cosponsors. This is enough for a discharge petition to force it to the House floor. This would be an embarrassing situation to this committee. After 14 years of being disenfranchised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Blue Water Navy deserves it’s day on the House floor for a vote.

The estimate is that 30,000 Veterans of the Blue Water Navy are being denied health care today. With the fiasco facing this nation with the deaths of Veterans in care of the DVA, let’s not add to the count. Please ask Representative Miller to bring forth this bill for a full vote of the House.
July 3, 2014, 3:51 pm
Ray Melninkaitis says:
30,000 More Veterans Died Waiting for VA Benefits- Courtesy of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association

In 2002, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) rescinded the health care and compensation benefits granted to certain Vietnam veterans by the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Since that date, more than 30,000 Navy and Marine veterans who served offshore Vietnam during that War have died. The Blue Water Nay Vietnam Veterans Association, currently fighting the VA for re-in statement of their benefits, estimates that as many as 15,000 of those veterans may have died from Agent Orange/dioxin-related complications. 

“Without those basic benefits,” says John Paul Rossie, Executive Director of the Association, “we estimate that the majority of those veterans may have died in debt from having to pay for treatment of their own service-connected war injuries, and many could have had their lives prolonged to a significant degree if they had been given the medical treatment automatically provided to all other veterans of the Vietnam War.” Joining Rossie in his crusade is retired Navy Commander John Wells, Director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., 

In February, 2002, 11 years after the unanimous passage of the Agent Orange Act, the VA redefined a ‘Vietnam veteran’ as someone who “must have actually served on land within the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) to qualify for the presumption of exposure to herbicides.” The most infamous herbicide, Agent Orange, contained dioxin which the VA acknowledges causes at least seven families of cancers, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and several other serious illnesses. “We consider these 15,000 veterans to have been on a waiting list for the approval of their benefits,” says Rossie, “and the VA left many of them to die as surely as if they had put a gun to their heads. These men not only endured the social stigma our country placed on their service in Vietnam, but they were kicked to the curb a second time when the VA excluded them from acknowledgment of their service-connected injuries, and left them to die in the gutter. Of all the sins of Vietnam that this country is guilty of, this one is the most disgraceful and inhumane.” 

John Wells is a lawyer who takes on cases of active duty court-martial s in addition to being admitted to the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims, assisting veterans fighting for their benefits from the DVA. Military-Veterans Advocacy has joined Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association in a law suit against the DVA, claiming administrative error in refusing to acknowledge advice from the Institute of Medicine to provide benefits to the men who serviced offshore, and also for ignoring the medical and scientific data proving the ships of the Seventh Fleet were daily exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange and its dioxin content. The suit also challenges the VA’s interpretations of the phrase “service in the Republic of Vietnam” on international law principles as applied by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Military-Veterans Advocacy, along with Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, has also gone to Congress to seek relief. A bill introduced by Congressman Chris Gibson (R NY) has the bi-partisan support of 225 co-sponsors. This bill, HR 543, will restore the presumption of exposure to those who served in the bays, ports, and harbors and in the territorial seas of South Vietnam. 

“The VA has taken an unbelievably arbitrary and capricious approach to this issue,” Wells noted. “They refuse to accept that Agent Orange, which was mixed with petroleum, floated down the rivers or was blown by the wind out to sea. As confirmed by the Institute of Medicine and the University of Queensland, the distillation process converting salt water to drinking water enriched the dioxin in Agent Orange. This water was then used for drinking, washing, laundry, cleaning and food preparation. The Australians as well as our own CDC noted a higher cancer incidence among Navy veterans than those who served in-country. It is easy to understand why. And Australia has been granting benefits to their Navy veterans who served offshore since 2003.”

Public contact of legislators will raise the number of co-sponsors and will increase the probability of HR 543 being released from Committee and passed. Without that solution, Navy and Marine veterans of Vietnam will continue to die without VA treatment.

John Paul Rossie 
Executive Director 
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association'
July 3, 2014, 3:51 pm
Edmond Sandoval says:
John Wells and John Rossie are such great advocates for the Blue Water Navy. I would like to commend them for the effort to get the VA to more carefully interpret the IOM's recommendations about the contamination that is killing the Blue Water Vets. It is amazing what levels the VA will go to save money. at the lives of loyal veterans that dropped what they were doing to serve their country.
Aug. 16, 2014, 9:19 am

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