WASHINGTON– A bill that expands U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that extends benefits to the children of Vietnam veterans who served in Thailand who were born with spina bifida.
H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, passed the Senate unanimously after passing the House of Representatives last month. The bill, backed by many veterans service organizations, now heads to the president’s desk.
“Providing VA benefits to the children of Vietnam veterans stationed in Thailand born with spina bifida is the fair and right thing to do. They will now be eligible for the same health care, monetary allowance and vocational training as children of Vietnam veterans who served in Vietnam born with the same condition,” Boozman said. “I’m pleased this provision was included in the Blue Water Navy bill and am hopeful that access to these benefits will help improve the lives of former service members exposed to toxic chemicals during their time in uniform, as well as the lives of their families.”
Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but did not dock or approach close to the shore were previously ineligible for certain VA disability benefits covering certain medical conditions associated with the chemical herbicide Agent Orange commonly used in Vietnam. In a recent court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined the VA must grant these benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently declined to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court. However, the passage of this legislation will codify the benefits into law and ensure that future judicial action will not reverse the outcome.
H.R.299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, will:
- Expand the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam.
- Extend presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone.
- Provide benefits to children of Vietnam veterans who served in Thailand and were born with spina bifida.