Jun 26, 2018 Issues: Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC –  Last night, Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) saw to the conclusion of a long journey to secure disability compensation and healthcare for Vietnam Navy Veterans, and voted for H.R. 299, Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act. This legislation, introduced by Congressman David Valadao (CA-21), would restore 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. It would also extend a presumption of Agent Orange exposure for veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone from September 1, 1967, through August 31, 1971 and authorizes the VA to provide health care, vocational training, and a monetary allowance to veterans’ children born with spina bifida, if the veterans served in Thailand from Jan. 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, and were exposed to Agent Orange.

“I have fought for almost two decades to pass this legislation, and I’m so thrilled to see it come to fruition,” said Congressman Jones. “Our brave Vietnam Navy Veterans have been ignored by our government for far too long. They bathed, drank, and washed clothing with water contaminated by Agent Orange and other awful chemicals during their service. It’s time they get the equal treatment and help they deserve.”

H.R. 299 passed the House unanimously with a vote of 382-0, and now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of the “Agent Orange” and similar herbicides were sprayed to remove jungle foliage. A toxic chemical in the herbicide has since been linked to devastating health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), various cancers, Type II Diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 (AOA) empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA stopped giving benefits to blue water veterans and limited the scope of the AOA to only those veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off of the Vietnamese coast or in bays and harbors were required to file individual claims to restore their benefits, which have then been decided on a case-by-case basis. H.R. 299 will reduce backlogged VA claims for veterans who are suffering from diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange, therefore reducing the overall VA backlog.

H.R. 299 is endorsed by numerous veterans service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., the Fleet Reserve Association, the Blue Water Navy Association, and the Vietnam Veterans Association.

Serving America’s veterans is one of Congressman Jones’ highest priorities.  Since 2003, Congressman Jones has cosponsored more bills to help veterans than any other member of Congress.

For additional information, please contact Allison Tucker in Congressman Walter Jones’ office at or (202) 225-3415.