U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson and advocates for "Blue Water" veterans will hold a press conference in Washington May 18 to push to pass legislation in the House and Senate to clarify existing law so veterans would be covered by by the federal Veterans Administration for treatment of Agent Orange exposure if they have served within the "territorial seas," approximately 12 miles off shore of Vietnam.
“Over half of these sailors are in heaven. They have left us far too soon,” he said in a speech to Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce at Six Flags Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury on Friday, referring to "Blue Water" veterans, the U.S. Navy personnel who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Agent Orange is a toxic chemical used to remove jungle foliage.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed about 20 million gallons of the chemical in Vietnam.
Currently, veterans are only eligible for coverage if they were actually on the ground in Vietnam.
The legislation Gibson introduced -- H.R. 969 -- had 319 co-sponsors, as of Friday -- 174 Democrats and 145 Republicans.
Co-sponsors include Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Steve Daines, R-Mont., have co-sponsored Senate companion legislation.