President Trump Signs Blue Water Navy Act into Law

June 28, 2019
Weekly Columns

Late in the evening on June 25, President Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Act into law. This bill represents the bipartisan efforts of veterans, advocacy groups, Congress and the administration to give Vietnam-era veterans the VA benefits they need.

If you are unfamiliar with the Blue Water Navy Act, this law will grant presumptive status for disability benefits to roughly 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam. These veterans were exposed to toxic herbicides, like Agent Orange, and many have experienced severe health issues as a result. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 stipulated that if a veteran served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 and has a disease related to Agent Orange exposure, they will automatically be presumed to have been exposed, and will qualify for VA disability and health benefits. The Blue Water Navy Act extends that presumption to offshore Navy veterans.

The law includes text I introduced last Congress that would expand benefits to children with spina bifida whose parents were exposed to Agent Orange. Now that we know just how damaging these herbicides were to veterans, there is no reason we should deny benefits to them and their families.

I’ve heard from residents of the Fourth District who served in Vietnam and know some of you are facing various issues in receiving VA benefits. The Blue Water Navy Act is a significant step in expanding coverage, and it’s a big win for many veterans. I’m also continuing to work on my bipartisan bill, the Keeping Our Promises Act, which would expand the list of presumptive illnesses from the Vietnam War included under VA coverage.

If you have a specific issue with the VA, please reach out to my Hot Springs office at 501-609-9796. I have veterans on staff that are happy to help you.