In our February 13th newsletter we reported on the court of appeals win in favor of Alfred Procopio Jr., who served on the USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War and had suffered illnesses from being in contact with agent orange. This court ruling opened the door for other "Blue Water Veterans" to hold claim to benefits denied them by the VA.
Blue Water Veterans are veterans that served during the Vietnam War, but were stationed off the coast therefore disqualifying them from being covered by the VA. Vietnam is currently the only war period that requires "boots on the ground" to qualify for benefits. Blue Water Veterans should be included due to the exposure to agent orange by transporting it or being exposed by using the water that was contaminated.
January 8th Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced a bill recognizing and covering the Blue Water Veterans with a presumption of exposure. May 14th the H.R.299: Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 passed the House with bipartisan support.
There is hope that the Senate will show support as well, finally allowing the Blue Water Veterans to be covered by the VA and allowing them to receive their pension benefits as well. The Senate failed to do so the last time a bill was introduced on the Blue Water Veterans behalf. Some report that they are worried about the cost of the more than 50,000 veterans that would become eligible for benefits.
It is possible that they are more worried about opening the door to other veterans that should be covered such as the Burn Pit Veterans that served primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed to numerous chemicals that were being disposed of in burn pits close to their living and working quarters. Burn Pit Veterans could add another 170,000 to a VA system that is already struggling. This could also open the door for the Hmong people that fought for us in Vietnam, were awarded citizenship, can be buried in military cemeteries(except Arlington), but can not receive any benefits.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 could go in front of the Senate as early as next week.