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Valadao Veterans Legislation Passes House

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Passes House of Representatives

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Washington, June 25, 2018 | Anna R. Vetter ((202) 815-1685) | comments
Today, legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21), H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, was passed by the United States House of Representatives.
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WASHINGTON – Today, legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21), H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, was passed by the United States House of Representatives.

Following passage of the legislation, Congressman Valadao said, "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." He went on, "I look forward to working with the Senate so that our veterans, who have given our nation so much, receive the healthcare they have earned."

H.R. 299; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act expands benefits for Vietnam blue water navy veterans who are currently suffering from diseases they developed as a result of their service. Specifically, the bill enables veterans who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam during the Vietnam War to receive expedited consideration for Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. Government has linked to Agent Orange.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (NT-01) stated, "I applaud the House’s passage of the Blue Water Veteran’s Act. 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."

“Our district is home to more veterans than any district in New York State, and our offices know firsthand the frustrations that the Blue Water Vets are facing trying to get the benefits they need and deserve,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). “Our brave veterans served heroically and we should never leave them behind. I am pleased that House Leadership has heard our call to pass this critical veterans bill to ensure our Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans receive the benefits they have earned. I thank Susie Belanger from my district for her tireless advocacy on this issue, and I urge the Senate to swiftly follow suit and send this to the President’s desk.”

“This is a good day for the House and, more importantly, for our veterans,” Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) said. “Blue water veterans have waited decades for action and fairness from the VA and from Congress. I am proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis to finally get this this important and long-overdue legislation passed in the House. I hope that the Senate will follow our lead and pass this bipartisan bill without delay so that our Blue Water veterans can finally receive the recognition and care they deserve.”

With 330 cosponsors, H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was passed through the House of Representatives on Monday, June 25, 2018.

Background:
  • During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide “Agent Orange” were sprayed to remove jungle foliage. A toxic chemical in the herbicide has since been linked to devastating health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), various cancers, Type II Diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The Agent Orange Act of 1991 (AOA) empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions.
  • However, in 2002, the VA stopped giving benefits to blue water veterans and limited the scope of the AOA to only those veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off of the Vietnamese coast or in bays and harbors were required to file individual claims to restore their benefits, which have then been decided on a case-by-case basis.
Key Provisions:
  • Restores the presumptive coverage for those who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam that existed prior to 2002 and lifts the burden from the individual veteran to prove direct exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Reduces backlogged VA claims for veterans who are suffering from diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange, therefore reducing the overall VA backlog.
  • Extends a presumption of Agent Orange exposure for veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Sept. 1, 1967, through Aug. 31, 1971.
  • Authorizes the VA to provide health care, vocational training, and a monetary allowance to veterans’ children born with spina bifida, if the veterans served in Thailand from Jan. 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, and were exposed to Agent Orange.
  • Requires the VA to report to Congress within 180 days of enactment on the latest findings of a follow-up study on symptoms affecting Gulf War veterans.
H.R. 299 is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., the Fleet Reserve Association, the Blue Water Navy Association, and the Vietnam Veterans Association.

More information about H.R. 299 including a summary of the legislation and bill text can be found here.

Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District of California, 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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