Late Breaking News
Troops Severely Injured Outside of War Zones Now Eligible for Payouts Cont.
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Diabetes, Navy, News, October 2011, PTSD, TBI, Trauma
VSOs are fighting for benefits for Navy veterans who served in Vietnam but never set foot on land. They are known as “blue-water veterans,” and, currently, benefits do not automatically expend to them.
Regulations were expanded last year, with VA acknowledging that some Navy vessels came very close to shore, and even patrolled the rivers of Vietnam, potentially exposing crewmembers, called “brown-water veterans,” to Agent Orange.
Many blue-water veterans and veterans’ advocates have argued that exposure was possible even for veterans serving farther from shore.
An IoM report released in May determined there was not enough existing data to determine the exposure of Vietnam-era blue-water veterans to Agent Orange. The report notes that, “given the lack of measurements taken during the war and almost 40 years since the war, this will never be a matter of science but instead a matter of policy.”
In terms of policy, Rep. Bob Filner, D-CA, introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011 last February. The bill would amend the current presumptions language to include all veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam (including the inland waterways, ports and harbors of such Republic, the waters offshore of such Republic, and the airspace above such Republic,” as well as those who “served in Johnston Island.” Johnston Island is an unincorporated U.S. territory in the North Pacific where disposal of the residue of Agent Orange containers took place.
Filner has unsuccessfully introduced similar legislation in previous years.
The bill has been referred to the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, where it has gone untouched since March. With 31 co-sponsors in the House, the bill as yet has no companion legislation in the Senate. This might change soon.
At the American Legion’s National Legislative Convention in Minneapolis in August, John Wells, the director of legal and legislative affairs for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, is expected to introduce such a bill during the fall session.
She, too, has introduced similar legislation, having introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009. Hearings were held discussing the legislation, but it never made it out of committee.