It’s official: President Trump signed the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act into law Tuesday night, which had been unanimously passed by both the House and Senate recently. The new law grants presumptive status for disability benefits to around 90,000 Navy veterans who were aboard ship off the coast of Vietnam during the war but were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange.
The Department of Veterans Affairs had fought against providing benefits to veterans who didn’t have “boots on the ground” in Vietnam, casting doubt on evidence that sailors had been exposed to the harmful effects of Agent Orange during the war. However, a federal court disagreed with the VA earlier this year, and the House and Senate followed suit by passing this bill swiftly.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said during a Senate hearing earlier this year before the bills had passed that his department was already working with the Department of Defense and the Navy to begin processing claims.
AUSN has some concerns that the language of the bill may exclude potentially thousands of sailors who served on ships that were just outside the 12-miles-from-shore range but still within the range set by the court decision, but we consider this a major victory for tens of thousands of veterans who have been waiting too long for deserved benefits.