BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                        SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
                              Senator Ben Hueso, Chair
                                               


          BILL NO:  AB 287                   HEARING DATE: 6/25/13
          AUTHOR:   Frazier
          VERSION:  As amended 4/29/13
          FISCAL:   Yes
          VOTE:     Majority





                                        SUBJECT  
          
          Vietnam veterans' memorial: update.


                                      DESCRIPTION  
           
          Summary
           Requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet)  
          to compile and update annually a list of names of deceased  
          Vietnam veterans to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on  
          the Capitol grounds.
           
          Existing law:
          Provides authorization and establishes a process for designing  
          and constructing a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (MilVets Code  
          1303)
           
          This bill:
           1. Requires CalVet to compile a list of names of deceased  
             Vietnam veterans to update the names currently depicted on  
             Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

          2. Directs CalVet to compile this list by November 1, 2014, and  
             to update it annually by November 1.

          3. Requires CalVet to form a committee to review and consider  
             requests to include names on the memorial:

                  a.        Formed by July 1, 2014.
                  b.        Chaired by the CalVet Secretary (or designee).









                  c.        Including three representatives from the  
                    California State Commanders Veterans Council and two  
                    representatives from the Vietnam Veterans of America,  
                    California State Council.

          4. States that the Committee's decisions shall be final.

          5. Provides that the list shall contain the names of persons not  
             included on the Memorial at the time the List is compiled,  
             including the names of veterans inadvertently left off and  
             the names of veterans who later died as a result of illness  
             or injuries, including physical or mental injuries documented  
             by the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Veterans  
             Administration, or licensed medical professionals, that can  
             reasonably be assumed to have resulted from military service  
             in the Vietnam War.

          6. States that any veterans service organization or individual  
             may submit the name of a veteran to the Committee requesting  
             it to be included on the list.

          7. States that the names on the list may be added to the  
             Memorial if adequate private funding is available and there  
             is sufficient space on the Memorial to accommodate the names.

          8. Specifies that this law shall remain in effect only until  
             January 1, 2020, and as of that date is repealed, unless a  
             later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1,  
             2020, deletes or extends that date.

           
                                     BACKGROUND  
          
          The Vietnam War was fought in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975, and  
          involved North Vietnam and the Viet Cong in conflict with the  
          United States and South Vietnam. The United States became  
          involved in Vietnam because policymakers in the United States  
          believed that if South Vietnam fell to a communist government,  
          communism would spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia.  

          More than 350,000 California veterans served in the Vietnam War,  
          40,000 of whom were wounded and 5,822 of whom were missing in  
          
          AB 287 (Frazier)                                            2
          










          action or killed, representing more than 10 percent of the  
          nation's total casualties in that war. In fact, more California  
          residents gave their lives in the Vietnam War than residents of  
          any other state, and more Californians were awarded the Medal of  
          Honor, the Bronze Star, or the Purple Heart than veterans of any  
          other state.    

          In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in the  
          District of Columbia to commemorate those members of the United  
          States Armed Forces who died or were declared missing in action  
          in Vietnam. The Memorial is located in the eastern portion of  
          the State Capitol grounds. It is sited near the Rose Garden in a  
          quiet, lush setting. Wide, paved paths lead to the Memorial from  
          the street as well as from the rest of the Capitol grounds.  
          There is a large grassy area around the Memorial, with benches  
          scattered around the area.

          The Memorial is circular in design, with full relief bronze  
          sculptures depicting scenes from daily life during the war. The  
          sculptures represent many sides of the war, with grunts, nurses,  
          and POWs. The American flag waves over the Memorial. The 5,822  
          names of California's dead and missing are engraved on  
          twenty-two black granite panels, arranged by their hometowns. In  
          a ring arranged around the granite panels, there are stone  
          benches facing the names. The $2.5 million Memorial was built  
          entirely through donations.
           
                                       COMMENT  
          
           Author comments  :

            "There are several reasons why veterans were not included on  
            the original memorial at the time it was constructed. Some  
            were inadvertently left off the original list. But many others  
            died after returning from service, as a direct result of  
            injuries or illness resulting from their service in the  
            Vietnam War, including conditions from Agent Orange exposure  
            which may take a long time to manifest.

            "The intent of the memorial is to honor and remember  
            California's Vietnam veterans who died as a result of their  
            injuries from the war or went missing during the war.  The  
          
          AB 287 (Frazier)                                            3
          










            bill would further that purpose by making the memorial as  
            complete as possible so that all California Vietnam veterans  
            are honored and no one is ever forgotten."

           Committee staff comments  :

          This bill authorizes the Memorial to include "the names of  
          veterans who later died as a result of illness or injuries,  
          including physical or mental injuries documented by the  
          Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, or licensed  
          medical professionals, that can reasonably be assumed to have  
          resulted from military service in the Vietnam war."


          While this inclusion is laudable, it may be difficult to  
          implement accurately. Do licensed medical professionals - not  
          affiliated with the DOD or the federal VA - have the specific  
          expertise or sufficient access to a veteran's military medical  
          history to conclude that a given condition was sufficiently  
          connected to service in Vietnam caused the veteran's death  
          years, perhaps decades, after such military service? This would  
          be true especially for "mental injuries."

           Related legislation  :

           AB 1289 (Cooley, pending Senate Third Reading, 2013)
            Establishes the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial as the  
            official state Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and makes  
            legislative findings.

           AB 264 (Cook/Lieu, vetoed, 2009)
            Would have required the Governor to annually proclaim March 30  
            of each year as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day."  
            Encouraged schools to conduct exercises on March 30 of each  
            year recognizing the contributions of those involved in the  
            Vietnam conflict. Governor's veto message said: "Our state is  
            facing significant challenges, including the need for  
            comprehensive changes in our policies on water, energy, and  
            corrections and the need to take meaningful steps to stimulate  
            the economy and rein in the rising levels of unemployment.  
            This bill does nothing to address any of these issues. I look  
            forward to considering this measure when these other major  
          
          AB 287 (Frazier)                                            4
          










            issues are addressed."

           AB 650 (Floyd, Ch. 1042, Stats. 1983)
            Authorizes and establishes a process for designing and  
            constructing a Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

                                       POSITIONS  
          
          Sponsors:
          Vietnam Veterans of America-California State Council
          California State Commanders Veterans Council

          Support: Same as sponsors.

          Oppose: None on file.
          
          Analysis by: Wade Cooper Teasdale

























          
          AB 287 (Frazier)                                            5