Legislation Update: Blue Water Veterans

Representative Phil Roe, Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC), introduced new legislation on May 4, 2018, by nature of a substitute to a previously similar bill, to expand VA disability and health benefits to Navy Veterans who served in the territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, known as Blue Water veterans. The HVAC passed the Bill on May 7, 2018, with full bipartisan support and has 329 cosponsors. The Bill now proceeds to the full House of Representatives.

WHAT DOES “BLUE WATER” MEAN? Blue Water veterans are considered to be those who served aboard ships in the open waters off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and who did not go ashore. Under current law, VA does not consider veterans who served aboard a ship that navigated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or that had visitation to the mainland of Vietnam, to be Blue Water veterans.

VA’S AGENT ORANGE PRESUMPTION Currently, VA’s regulation establishing presumptive herbicide exposure mandates that VA presume veterans “who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975” were exposed to an herbicide agent. The regulation states, “‘Service in the Republic of Vietnam’ includes service in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.”

ARE BLUE WATER VETERANS GOING TO GET BENEFITS? The bill introduced to the United States Congress concerns veterans “who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975.” This language is meant to explicitly include Blue Water veterans, ending VA’s long-held practice of excluding these veterans from presumptive benefits for Agent Orange exposure during service.

The bill would alter the language of VA’s current regulation of presumption for herbicide exposure to include Blue Water veterans, and allow them to obtain presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure.

MORE RESOURCES FOR BLUE WATER VETERANS:

Blue Water Veterans Legislation

Procopio v. Wilkie oral argument

How to use Navy Deck Logs as evidence