The Senate has unanimously passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, meaning the bill is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
This is a tremendous development for our veterans, and one we were not able to accomplish last year: the bill passed the House but never made it out of committee in the Senate. Now, the bill has passed both the House and the Senate — unanimously in both cases.
It follows another major victory for our veterans earlier this year, the Procopio decision, in which a federal court decided 9-2 that Navy veterans who served offshore during the Vietnam War are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and are therefore eligible for benefits.
Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.), who AUSN honored at our annual Capitol Hill Reception in May for his work on Blue Water Navy, said in a statement: “Our Vietnam vets who served both on land and sea deserve equal care for their bravery in defense of our country. I am happy to see my legislation pass. It is due time we get our Blue Water Vets the care their sacrifices demanded.”
The Procopio ruling and this bill rectify an injustice against our veterans that has gone on for nearly two decades. Congress passed a law in 1991 that required the VA to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with symptoms linked to Agent Orange exposure, but the VA decided in 2002 it would only cover veterans who could prove that they actually had “boots on the ground,” ignoring the tens of thousands of sailors who were exposed to the deadly chemical while stationed just offshore.
There is still much work to do before veterans can begin applying for benefits. The president must first sign the bill into law, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is still determining how to implement the new policy. We will continue to monitor the situation and help our Navy veterans get the benefits they deserve.