After a unanimous victory in the House Tuesday night, legislation to grant benefits for Agent Orange exposure to Navy veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam will move to the Senate – where it failed to pass last year.
The bill passed 410-0. Last year, the House passed relief for Blue Water Navy veterans 382-0 before the measure failed in the Senate.
“This is an important hurdle to clear, but it’s one we’ve cleared before,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “There is more work to be done for these veterans who have waited much, much too long to receive benefits they’ve earned. But we’re not alone on this: Dozens of senators showed last year they were willing to get this bill to the finish line, and with their support, and that of other advocacy groups sharing this cause, MOAA remains committed to see this legislation clear all the hurdles and reach the President’s desk.”
An estimated 900,000 veterans have been exposed to Agent Orange. This legislation would extend disability benefits to about 90,000 veterans.
MOAA has long supported legislation that would grant presumptive exposure to Agent Orange to veterans who served on ships off Vietnam’s coast. This bipartisan legislation would extend benefits to servicemembers who served in the territorial waters off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange, which is connected to a variety of cancers and other long-term illnesses.
A January court ruling will require the VA to provide health care to Blue Water Navy veterans, but H.R. 299 would codify that care while also assisting other groups: The bill provides relief to veterans exposed to Agent Orange on the Korean DMZ, and it also expands benefits to the children of veterans who served in Thailand and suffer from spina bifida.
Last year, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 made it further than it ever had before – passing the House, but failing in the Senate when two senators blocked a motion for unanimous-consent votes.