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Rep. Valadao, Lawmakers Host Press Conference on Agent Orange Legislation

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Washignton, May 18, 2016 | Anna R. Vetter ((202) 815-1685) | comments
U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) joined with Congressman Chris Gibson and several Members of Congress, as well as Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, military families, members of Veterans Service Organizations, and other allies for a press conference on H.R. 969; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, a bipartisan bill in support of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and other Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service aboard vessels off the coast of Vietnam and now have serious illnesses that are directly connected to that exposure.
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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) joined with Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) and several Members of Congress, as well as Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, military families, members of Veterans Service Organizations, and other allies for a press conference on H.R. 969; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, a bipartisan bill in support of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and other Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service aboard vessels off the coast of Vietnam and now have serious illnesses that are directly connected to that exposure.

Under current law, many United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Fleet Marines who were exposed to chemical agents are ineligible for disability benefits because they served on ships that operated offshore Vietnam as opposed to in waterways within the geographical boundaries of Vietnam. H.R. 969; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act aims to address this gap in coverage. 

Congressman Valadao stated, "This issue is extremely important to me personally and is especially important to the thousands of veterans who were exposed to chemical agents during their service but are currently ineligible for benefits. I am proud to join Congressman Gibson and all those in attendance today to bring awareness to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act." He continued, "It is far past due that our veterans receive the care and treatment they deserve and I cannot stress enough how critical it is that the Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs get on board. Veterans throughout the United States have made immeasurable sacrifices for our nation and we are forever indebted to those who have served. Ensuring proper healthcare for active and retired military personnel, especially when it relates to injuries sustained during their service to our nation is a small, yet important, symbol of gratitude for their service."

Author of the bill, Congressman Gibson said, “Sadly, we’re losing these Veterans every day to a host of illnesses caused by drinking, bathing in, and otherwise being exposed to water contaminated by Agent Orange. This water was drawn into shipboard desalination units after mixing with runoff from Vietnamese rivers, as well as being brought to these ships from barges transporting water from heavily sprayed inland areas. The VA suspects the water was toxic, but for decades this agency has denied presumptive coverage to these brave men and their families because proof of exposure, even for those having touched land, is impossible to certify. Our bill corrects this injustice, and we are gathering together this week to see that Congress takes action now.”




H.R. 969; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 13, 2016. The legislation amends United State Code so that veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam’s territorial seas qualify for certain disability benefits through the Veterans Administration when they suffer from diseases associated with exposure to chemicals, such as Agent Orange. H.R. 969 was referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs for further consideration. A companion bill, HS. 681; was introduced in the Senate on March 9, 2015 where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. 

Background: 
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating effects on millions serving in Vietnam. In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the VA to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002 the VA determined that it would only cover Veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion prevents thousands of sailors who may have still experienced significant Agent Orange exposure from receiving VA benefits.

Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties.


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U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao

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