Veterans groups appeal for Blue Water Navy veterans benefits

According to an article published by Stripes.com, ten national veterans organizations pleaded with the President last week, asking him to direct the Justice Department not to appeal a recent federal court decision that could extend Agent Orange benefits to thousands of Vietnam War veterans.

The article continued by saying, “The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that “Blue Water” Navy veterans, those who served aboard ships offshore during the war, are eligible for benefits to treat illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange. The Justice Department and Department of Veterans Affairs have until the end of the month to seek a review of the case from the U.S. Supreme Court. VA General Counsel James Byrne said last month that the agency hadn’t decided whether it would appeal but officials were “taking it under advisement.”

Veterans groups pleaded with lawmakers not to contest the decision saying,  “On behalf of the undersigned veterans service organizations and our millions of members, we urge you to direct the Justice Department NOT to appeal the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit decision,”. The 10 veterans groups argued that the current decision allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to make the benefits available now, without having to wait for legislation.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was backed by a unanimous vote last year, but was stalled after Robert Wilkie voiced his opposition, citing “high costs and insufficient scientific evidence”. The ruling followed a failed effort in Congress last year to approve the benefits.

This year, the House and Senate reintroduced the legislation at the start of the new congressional session with top lawmakers saying they would attempt again to pass the legislation.

To learn more about the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, click here.