Rounds, Colleagues Reintroduce Blue Water Navy Legislation
Bill would protect Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange during their service
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined a number of senators to reintroduce the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act this Congress. The bipartisan legislation would make sure thousands of “Blue Water” Navy veterans can receive the disability and health care benefits they earned after their exposure to the dangerous pesticide Agent Orange while fighting in the Vietnam War.
“Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedom and keep us safe,” said Rounds. “We owe it to them to take proper care of them after their service is complete, especially when it comes to injuries and health problems that resulted from active duty. Our legislation would extend eligibility for disability compensation and health care to ‘Blue Water’ Navy veterans who were exposed to dioxin, a chemical linked to significant health problems, during the Vietnam War. This legislation is long overdue and I look forward to working to advance it as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.”
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating health effects on millions serving in Vietnam. In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002, the VA decided that it would only cover veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion prevents thousands of sailors from receiving benefits even though they had significant Agent Orange exposure from drinking and bathing in contaminated water just offshore.