Grassley, Gillibrand, Daines Introduce Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Resolution
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) today introduced a resolution in support of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that those who served in the bays, harbors and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the period from January 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, should be presumed to have been exposed to the toxin Agent Orange and should be eligible for all related federal benefits associated with the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
“I was a cosponsor of the Agent Orange Act of 1991,” Grassley said. “Congress intended that law to apply to all veterans who served in the territory of Vietnam, including the territorial waters. The scientific evidence is compelling that Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange just like those who served on land. The VA’s current interpretation is wrong and should be changed.”
“Thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and many of them are now suffering from severe illnesses as a result,” Gillibrand said. “Unfortunately, the VA continues to deny benefits to Blue Water veterans who are sick from Agent Orange exposure because of an arbitrary and bureaucratic rule that cut coverage to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange off of Vietnam’s coasts. This Resolution would set the record straight regarding Congress’s intent to cover all veterans who served in and offshore of Vietnam.”
“Blue Water Navy vets have been subjected to a different standard for far too long,” Daines stated. "I’ll continue to push for policy changes in the VA to ensure that these veterans are not excluded from coverage.”
Under the VA’s current interpretation of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Vietnam Veterans must have stepped foot on the land of Vietnam or served on its inland waterways anytime between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides when claiming service connection for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. This determination leaves many Navy veterans unable to claim benefits they need. This resolution would help broaden the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure by veterans to certain herbicide agents while in Vietnam. Including the territorial seas and offshore waters will provide eligibility for care to a larger group of Vietnam veterans impacted by exposure to such herbicides.
A companion resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
The Senate version of the resolution is available here.