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Support for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (H.R. 299)

May 14, 2019
Statements For the Record

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (H.R. 299).

When our brave men and women sign up to serve, the American people make a promise to them.

We assure them of clearly defined benefits that are guaranteed upon completion of their service. Unfortunately, for many veterans of the Vietnam era who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam, our government fell short of this solemn duty.

In 1991, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act, legislation that instituted the presumption of service connection for certain diseases linked to exposure to defoliants and herbicides like Agent Orange. This law built upon the Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984 that directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a system of disability compensation for Vietnam era veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange.

However, these laws failed to acknowledge that veterans who served in the territorial seas during the Vietnam War, known as Blue Water Navy Veterans, were also exposed to Agent Orange. In addition to handling toxic chemicals onboard naval vessels, many of these chemicals polluted rivers and streams in Vietnam that ran into the territorial seas. This contaminated water was then used by the U.S. Navy for drinking, bathing, and other purposes.  

H.R. 299 finally acknowledges that our Blue Water Navy Veterans were exposed to these toxic chemicals. It remedies the inequity among veterans of the Vietnam era by extending the presumption of service connection for certain conditions to those who served offshore, and it is a long overdue step towards making these veterans whole. I hope that the Senate will swiftly take up this legislation once the House passes it today.

Madam Speaker, I strongly urge my colleagues to support this legislation and finally welcome back home our Blue Water Navy Veterans.

I yield back.