Legislation Introduced to Ensure Care for Vets Exposed to Agent Orange
Last week, Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and 21 of their U.S. Senate colleagues reintroduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to ensure thousands of Navy veterans, known as “Blue Water” Navy veterans, would become eligible to receive Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation and healthcare benefits.
The term “Blue Water” Navy veterans applies to those who served in the territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange in their water supplies.
“Thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans continue to suffer from serious, chronic illnesses and yet, the VA has repeatedly denied them VA health benefits because they happened to serve our country at sea rather than on land,” Sen. Hirono said. “These veterans’ stories are heartbreaking and we must pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to correct this wrong.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of Alfred Procopio Jr., a Blue Water Navy veteran, in a 9-2 decision that Vietnam War veterans who were stationed offshore during the war and developed health problems linked to the exposure of Agent Orange were entitled to the same benefits as those who put boots on the ground or patrolled Vietnam’s inland rivers. This decision will impact an estimated 52,000 Blue Water Navy veterans nationwide, who are now eligible to receive care and compensation from the VA.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would allow the VA to better understand the intent of Congress and prevent the VA from narrowly interpreting the court’s decision in a manner that would exclude eligible veterans.
Sen. Hirono previously introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last Congress; while the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, it was not brought up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill has remained a top priority for several leading Veterans Service Organizations.
In addition to Sens. Hirono, Gillibrand, and Daines, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act is also cosponsored by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Michael Bennett (D-Col.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Gardner (R-Col.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
Click here to read the full text of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.