H.R. 299, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, passed unanimously out of the House June 25, with a vote of 382-0. The legislation will extend disability benefits covering medical conditions associated with Agent Orange to Blue Water Navy veterans.
Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if diagnosed with a medical condition associated with the herbicide, according to the Agent Orange Act of 1991. However, this act applied only to veterans who served on land and in Vietnam’s inland waterways, excluding those who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam known as “Blue Water” Navy veterans. H.R. 299 will extend these benefits to the Blue Water Navy veterans.
"Every day veterans call my office asking when this law will be corrected, and I'm grateful to tell them we are one massive step closer to ensuring they receive the medical treatment they deserve," said Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., who introduced the bill. "I look forward to working with the Senate so that our veterans, who have given our nation so much, receive the health care they have earned."
The American Legion in 2016 passed Resolution No. 246, supporting "legislation to amend title 38, United States Code, to presume exposure to Agent Orange for any military personnel who served during the Vietnam War on any vessel that came within 12 nautical miles of the coastlines of Vietnam."
“I applaud the House’s passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This bill is critical to our nation’s Blue Water Navy veterans, as it ensures they receive benefits for any condition they may have developed as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. This bill has been years in the making, and I am grateful for Rep. Valadao’s leadership on this issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill to President Trump’s desk and finally provide Blue Water Navy veterans with the benefits they deserve.”
H.R. 299 will now go before the Senate for a vote.