Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chris Gibson (R-NY) optimistic about 'Blue Water' veteran bill
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is optimistic about the outlook for legislation he introduced to establish “presumed coverage” for so-called “Blue Water” veterans for treatment of Agent Orange exposure.
“Clearly we are further along then we have ever been in any previous Congress, and I am hopeful the President of the United States will sign this into law this Congress,” Gibson said in an interview in Queensbury on Saturday.
Gibson said there are several hopeful indicators:
The House bill he introduced – H.R. 969 -- has 218 co-sponsors, the number of votes necessary to pass legislation. There are 98 Republican co-sponsors, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and 120 Democratic co-sponsors, including Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, which will be the topic of a Senate hearing this week.
The Congressional Budget Office is in the process of conducting a new estimate of the cost, a factor Gibson said has been a hurdle in getting approval of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “I’ve maintained from the very beginning that the CBO cost was not accurate. We have been working diligently with the CBO and believe that there will be good news to report on that immanently, in the coming days if not in the coming weeks,” he said.
The legislation would clarify existing law so veterans would be automatically covered by the federal Veterans Administration for treatment of Agent Orange exposure if they served within the “territorial seas,” approximately 12 miles off the shore of Vietnam.
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 only have presumed coverage if they were actually on the ground in Vietnam.
Others are decided on a case-by-case basis, which can be a lengthy process.
“We’re proud of the fact that we do win a fair number of these cases,” Gibson said. “But we shouldn’t have to. They should get presumed coverage.”

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