Dear Mr. Yates:
Thank you for contacting me. I am grateful for your service to this nation. Please accept my best wishes on your recovery and do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you.
As you know, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (P.L.102-4) to facilitate the ability of certain Vietnam veterans who were exposed to herbicide during their service to obtain disability compensation. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has held that this legislation pertains to veterans that set foot on Vietnamese land or served in the inland waterways of Vietnam, which excludes “Blue Water Navy” veterans, who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam, as you know.
In an effort to include “Blue Water Navy” military retirees in the list of eligible veterans who are presumed to have obtained diseases associated with exposure to herbicide agents while serving in Vietnam, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced S.681 on March 9, 2015. This legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where it is currently under review. In addition, as you noted, Representative Christopher Gibson (R-NY-19) introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015 (H.R.969) in the House of Representatives on February 13, 2015. This legislation was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Please be assured that should legislation regarding “Blue Water Navy” veterans come before the full Senate for consideration, I will keep your situation in mind.
Our nation’s brave service members and veterans have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom, and it is vital that they have access to the care they have earned and deserve. During my time in Congress, I have worked hard to expand access to VA care for veterans in Nevada and throughout the nation, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to do all that we can to support those who have fought so hard to protect our freedom and secure our nation.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write to me. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
My best wishes to you.
United States Senator