Blue Water Navy Veterans court ruling moves forward

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that they will not appeal a January court ruling that will likely pave the way for “Blue Water Navy” veterans to receive Agent Orange benefits.

According to an article published by Military.com, “VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he will recommend the Justice Department not fight the decision, handing a victory to ill former service members who fought for years to have their diseases recognized as related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.”

Last year, the House passed a bill called the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act which allowed affected service members to receive benefits. However, the bill failed in the Senate when Republicans, Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, said they wanted to wait for the outcome of a current study on Agent Orange exposure.

The fight to provide “Blue Water Navy” veterans with exposure-related benefits continued when the VA contended that any herbicide runoff from the millions of gallons sprayed in Vietnam was diluted by seawater and would not have affected offshore service members. The objection continued with the cost of providing benefits for the proposed Blue Water Navy Veterans Act estimated roughly at $5.5 billion. Wilkie relayed information to members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the VA’s fiscal 2019 budget that the department has already started serving 51,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.

According to committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, a hearing regarding burn pits and other environmental exposures some troops say left them with lifelong illnesses is promised. However, Isakson added that the VA needs to prioritize care for Blue Water Navy veterans first saying.

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Relevant pages: Veterans Disability