WASHINGTON — Following a federal court decision that veterans who served offshore on ships during the Vietnam War should be eligible for Agent Orange benefits, lawmakers made their case Wednesday for why legislation is still needed to ensure it gets done.
A subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs met to discuss the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 – the “quickest and clearest route” for providing benefits to so-called “blue water” Navy veterans, argued Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that blue water Navy veterans are eligible for benefits. The decision could pave the way for disability compensation for tens of thousands of veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships but had been deemed ineligible for the same disability benefits as others who served on the ground and inland waterways.
After asking for an extension last month, the Department of Justice now has about a month to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
“[The ruling] was a huge step forward, but we need to do more,” Takano said. “We need to ensure blue water veterans are protected in the event [it] is appealed to the Supreme Court and overturned.”
The legislation was the first that Takano introduced this year as the new chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.