In the first week of the near year, lawmakers reintroduced a bill that would clarify toxic exposure definitions, allowing Blue Water Navy veterans to receive the same VA benefits as their counterparts who served in Vietnam on the ground.
In June of last year, the House voted 382-0 to grant benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans but in a surprise to many, a senator objected to it, stalling the bill’s progress.
For years, those who served on Navy ships during Vietnam and were exposed to toxic chemical exposures faced challenges accessing certain healthcare and benefits H.R. 203 could change that.
“The fact that politics got in the way of our duty to care for veterans affected by toxic exposure is a disservice to the 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Mark Takano, (D-Calif.)
There are some 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans who served in ships off the coast of Vietnam who currently don’t qualify to receive VA benefits, including disability compensation for health issues they attribute to the toxic exposure.
Last session, the “Big Six” veteran service organizations penned a letter to the president in early December calling for the passing of the legislation.
“We must deliver on our promise to ensure that those who have sacrificed in the defense of our freedoms receive the healthcare and services they deserve when they return home,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH)
With the bill being reintroduced many veterans and veteran advocates hope that lawmakers will see the value in giving these Navy benefits the same benefits as their counterparts who fought boots on the ground.