A recent court ruling paved the way for tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans – those who served in the wartime waters off Vietnam – to receive long-sought VA benefits. Veteran service organization continue trying to secure these benefits, on two fronts. First, nine veterans service organizations wrote to President Donald Trump, asking him to allow the ruling in Procopio vs. Wilkie to stand. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in the case that Blue Water Navy veterans can receive VA care for conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure, such as some types of cancer. While VA officials have said there is no intent to request an appeal, the letter asks the president to direct the Justice Department not to appeal the ruling and to ask VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to “immediately begin implementing this decision so that justice is finally provided to the men and women who served in Vietnam, suffered from the devastating long-term health effects of Agent Orange exposure, but who today are denied the benefits and health care they have earned.” A bill now gaining wide support in the House also intends to accomplish that goal – H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, would create the presumption of herbicide exposure for these veterans (about 52,000) as well as establish clear geographic boundaries for what “offshore” areas are considered. The bill text provides details. The House bill also provides relief to veterans exposed to Agent Orange on the Korean DMZ and expands benefits to the children of veterans who served in Thailand and suffer from spina bifida – benefits that the court’s decision, even if it stands, would not convey. For that reason, and to provide greater clarity on the benefits process for tens of thousands of veterans and their families as well as veteran service organization have backed H.R. 299 since its introduction, and continues to ask its members to do the same. Since the February appeal, another 50 House members have signed on as co-sponsors, bringing the total to 303. For more information, contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.
Sandra G. Van Zant
Veterans County Service Officer