Gallagher-Backed Vietnam Veterans Bill Passes House Unanimously

June 26, 2018
Press Release
Assists ‘Blue Water’ Navy Vets Exposed to Agent Orange

Washington, D.C. – Last night the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. The bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Gallagher extends VA benefits for veterans who served in Vietnamese coastal waters, or along the Korean demilitarized zone, during the Vietnam Era and are suffering from diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure. Under previous law, only veterans exposed to Agent Orange who set foot on land during the war or served in Vietnamese inland waterways were eligible for these benefits.

“I’ve seen firsthand the harmful, in some cases debilitating, effects that Agent Orange exposure has had on Vietnam War veterans in Northeast Wisconsin. This important legislation will help ensure veterans exposed to Agent Orange get the care they need and deserve, regardless of if the exposure took place on land or at sea,” said Rep. Gallagher. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line for this country, and the very least we can do is have their backs in their times of need.”


As a part of his pro-Veterans agenda, Rep. Gallagher has also supported:

  • H. Con. Res. 45 – Expressing the Sense of Congress About Vietnam Blue Water Veterans
  • H. Res. 214 – Expressing support for designation of a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day
  • H. Res. 737—Expressing support for the designation of March 2, 2018, as “Gold Star Families Remembrance Day”
  • The PAWS Act to establish a pilot program that provides service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD.  
  • The Hire Vets Act and BRAVE Act which recognizes and rewards entities that prioritize the hiring of our nation’s veterans


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: 

  • This bill 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.
  • The presumption currently exists for veterans who served on land and inland waterways, and therefore the bill places Navy personnel on the same playing field as those who served in country. The legislation would also reduce 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.
  • The bill also extends the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure to herbicide agents to veterans who served in or near the Korean DMZ during select parts of the Vietnam era.
Issues: 

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