On May 14, 2019, a bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 410 to 0 that allows the extension of benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to military veterans who were assigned to U.S. Navy ships during the Vietnam War. These benefits are for illnesses known to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants or herbicides.
Agent Orange, a dioxin-laden herbicide, has been found to cause respiratory cancers, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease, as well as other conditions.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, or H.R. 299, received a vote of 382 to 0 in June of last year that would have allowed veterans who served aboard naval vessels to receive the same benefits as Vietnam veterans who were already receiving disability compensation and healthcare for illnesses related to exposure of herbicides, including Agent Orange.
“Blue Water” Navy veterans are those who served aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers and other vessels, but had been deemed ineligible for the same disability benefits as others who served on the ground and inland waterways.
In December of 2018, the bill stalled during the legislative process due to questions arising from concerns of cost and whether the veterans in question were actually exposed to the toxic chemicals.
The contention from these veterans is that they are suffering from Agent Orange related illnesses because the ships they served on not only transported the toxic chemical defoliant, but that the desalination units aboard these vessels were using contaminated water.
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January of this year that these veterans should be entitled to the same veterans benefits as those who served inland where the herbicide was used.
Even though the vast majority of veterans organizations fought for these Blue Water Navy veterans for years and support the legislation, there are a few groups who are not too pleased with its scope.
Robert L. Wilkie, Jr., Secretary of Veterans Affairs, stated in March that the Justice Department should not appeal the ruling. On April 29th, the deadline to file an appeal was extended to May 29th by the U.S. Supreme Court due to a request from the Justice Department.
The veterans organizations that are concerned point to the fact that the bill delineates specific grid coordinates of areas offshore that would be covered. The fear is this will limit the scope of coverage and possibly exclude tens of thousands of veterans from receiving the disability benefits to which they are entitled.
Other veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, state that these grid coordinates would actually expand coverage beyond 12 nautical miles in some locations, “particularly the Mekong Delta.”
The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.
Read the full story here: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/05/15/house-unanimously-passes-blue-water-navy-bill-not-everyone-happy.html