For Immediate Release
Monday, May 2, 2016
VETERANS ADVOCATES: PASS 'BLUE WATER ACT'
Advocates for Vietnam veterans who were indirectly exposed to Agent Orange while aboard ships in coastal waters are again asking Congress to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 969), which will restore benefits to these servicemen and women.
"During the entire Vietnam War potable water contaminated with Agent Orange was provided to ships anchored in Da Nang and Qui Nhon harbors," said Cdr. John Wells (USN, Ret.), executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy, a Louisiana-based non-profit. "Reports from Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam confirmed that over one million gallons of potable water per month were delivered to Seventh Fleet ships in Da Nang Harbor. The crew used this water for drinking, cooking, laundry, cleaning and hygiene. Despite this common knowledge, the Secretary still continues to refuse to grant the presumption of exposure to those veterans aboard ships in the harbors."
Under current regulations, the VA has determined that ships in "inland waters" are eligible for the presumption. Over 340 ships have been identified as covered under the existing regulation, representing approximately 84,000 veterans. In April of 20 15 the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Gray v. McDonald, found the exclusion of bays and harbors from the VA definition of "inland waters" to be irrational and ordered them to rewrite the regulation concentrating on probabilities of exposure. Instead of including the harbors in their revised definition of "inland waters," the VA arbitrarily and captiously chose to "double down" on their earlier policy. They continued to exclude the bays and harbors from the presumption of exposure. Several law suits questioning this action have been brought by MVA and are pending in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Court of Appeal for Veterans Clams.
In a letter to Congressman Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Wells asked the chairman to hold a hearing on HR 969 and advance it to the House floor, where it has 319 co-sponsors.
"Military Veterans Advocacy is prepared to be your resource on this issue," Wells wrote.