From Military-Veterans Advocacy: (Please "Like" our Facebook Page) It is official. The new Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, HR 969, was reintroduced this morning by Chris Gibson (R NY). The Act bore the signature of 128 bi-partisan co-sponsors.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) re-introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act today with more than 125 bipartisan co-sponsors, continuing a years-long fight for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Congressman Gibson’s bill gives presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to sailors who served aboard ships off the coast of Vietnam.
“A toxic chemical in Agent Orange is linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, and Parkinson’s disease,” said Congressman Gibson. “For too long Navy veterans exposed to this chemical by their shipboard desalination systems, among other exposures, have been denied the VA benefits they deserve. I am hopeful this bill will be signed into law this Congress.”
During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed to remove jungle foliage. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 empowered the VA to declare that certain illnesses were linked to exposure to Agent Orange, providing thousands of Vietnam veterans with disability compensation.
In 2002, the VA stopped giving benefits to off-shore, or blue water, Navy veterans and limited the scope of the Agent Orange Act to personnel who could provide proof of having “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in coastal waters were required to file individual claims to restore their benefits.
Those claims are decided on a case-by-case basis, but proving exposure to Agent Orange is nearly impossible due to a lack of record keeping and the inability to know the precise location of dioxins in the air and water runoff. The VA regularly denies these claims, despite studies that show higher rates of disease among shipboard veterans who drank, bathed in, and handled water contaminated by Agent Orange.
“This bill places Navy personnel on the same playing field as those who served on Vietnamese territory during the war—it’s the right thing to do,” said Congressman Gibson. “It also reduces the unacceptable backlog of VA claims for veterans suffering from diseases our government links to Agent Orange. That’s a top priority of ours as we implement the VA healthcare reforms adopted in the last Congress.”