Gabbard-Backed Bill to Expand Benefits for Vietnam Veterans Suffering from Agent Orange Passes House
Washington, DC—Bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) to expand benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange-linked diseases passed the House of Representatives today. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) would allow veterans who served in Vietnam to receive expedited consideration for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits if they suffer from diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure from their service. Agent Orange has been linked to health complications, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), various cancers, Type II Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and others.
The legislation is supported by Vietnam Veterans of America, Fleet Reserve Association, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), and the Blue Water Navy Association.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said: “Decades after returning home, our Vietnam veterans continue to suffer from Agent Orange-linked diseases, and face numerous obstacles to getting the care they need from the VA. Our bipartisan legislation seeks to eliminate these barriers for our nation’s heroes by expanding benefits and expediting critical, life-saving health care and services. There is no excuse for the hardship our veterans across the country continue to face; we must enact this legislation now.”
Background: Key provisions of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) include:
- Restores the presumptive coverage for those who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam that existed prior to 2002 and lifts the burden from the individual veteran to prove direct exposure to Agent Orange.
- The presumption currently exists for veterans who served on land and inland waterways, and therefore the bill places Navy personnel on the same playing field as those who served in country.
- The legislation would also reduce backlogged VA claims for veterans who are suffering from diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange, therefore reducing the overall backlog.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also introduced the Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) to evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals by:
- Requiring the Secretary of Defense to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs).
- Enrolling any servicemember who meets the above criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out.
- Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs, and PDHAs.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also joined Reps. Raul Ruiz, M.D. and Joaquin Castro in introducing the Family Member Access to Burn Pit Registry Act to allow family members to register in the burn pits registry on behalf of a deceased servicemember.
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