(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are urgently calling on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to implement provisions under the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to quickly provide long-overdue benefits and care to veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure.
“Veterans who have suffered for decades would welcome quick Departmental implementation of this law,” wrote the Senators in a bipartisan letter. “In response to questions prior to your confirmation as Secretary, you agreed to provide a timeline on when these veterans could expect Departmental action. We reiterate this request and ask that you provide this information as soon as possible, along with any additional resources your Department needs to adjudicate these claims expeditiously. We also request that you detail any renewed filings veterans or their survivors must undertake to receive benefits under the law. Veterans have waited long enough, and it is time for them to have their claims properly adjudicated.”
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act changed the law to guarantee that veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange could access health care and benefits related to their exposure from VA. President Donald Trump signed this legislation into law on June 25, 2019.
“I submitted my Blue Water Navy Claim to my local Veterans Service Organization in Kalispell more than a year ago, and VA has yet to provide a resolution,” said Bigfork Vietnam Veteran Mike Stone. “As a veteran living with three of the seven qualifying service-connected conditions, including Type 2 Diabetes and Ischemic Heart Disease, I simply can’t afford to wait another 14 months for VA to take action. I appreciate Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran’s attention to ensuring that these claims are expedited immediately for myself and countless others who served on behalf of this nation.”
“It’s frustrating to have to keep proving I was exposed and waiting for a resolution to get the care I need from my government,” said Kalispell Vietnam Veteran LD Gross. “I made three trips to Vietnam, was on the presumptive list of ships exposed to Agent Orange and lived through prostate cancer twice. My fellow Vietnam Veterans and I have been fighting to get the benefits we’ve earned for 45 years, and we deserve to have these claims expedited.”
In their continued fight to address the costs of wars, Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran recently urged ‘decisive action’ from VA Secretary McDonough to include Hypertension to the list of presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange.
Last week, the Senators led a hearing analyzing the human consequences of war as it pertains to military toxic exposures. They heard powerful stories from veterans who served in the Vietnam and Iraq Wars on their experiences living with Hypertension and chronic lung disease—conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange and Burn Pits.
Read the Senators’ full letter to Secretary McDonough HERE.