U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

06/12/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/12/2019 17:53

Isakson, Tester Applaud Senate Passage of Blue Water Navy Legislation

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today applauded the Senate passage of H.R.299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which would extend certain U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

'It is our responsibility to make sure our veterans are provided the benefits they have earned,' said Isakson. 'Passing this legislation for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans has been a priority for our committee. I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law, and I will work with the VA to ensure Blue Water Navy veterans begin receiving these benefits.'

'Today's victory was hard fought and hard won, by brave servicemembers who returned home from Vietnam only to find their country couldn't give them the treatment and benefits they desperately needed and earned,' said Tester. 'For so many veterans and their families living with the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, this legislation is long overdue - and it rights a wrong perpetrated by a government that ignored them for far too long. We are delivering today on our commitment to justice for the Blue Water Navy veterans in Montana and across the country who sacrificed to keep us safe and free.'

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.299 on May 14, 2019. Following today's Senate passage, the measure heads to the president's desk.

Background:

Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but did not dock or approach close to the shore were previously ineligible for certain VA disability benefits covering certain medical conditions associated with the chemical herbicide Agent Orange commonly used in Vietnam. In a recent court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined the VA must grant these benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans.

H.R.299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, will:

  • Expand the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam.
  • Extend presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone.
  • Provide benefits to children of Vietnam veterans who served in Thailand and were born with spina bifida.

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The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 116th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself - having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 - and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson's home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as nearly 700,000 veterans.