The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 (HR 299), a bill to restore the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to those veterans who served in the bays, harbors and territorial seas of Vietnam, was introduced on Jan. 5. It was introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Rep Tim Walz, D-(Minn.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Joseph Courtney (D-Conn.), Joe Lobiondo (R-N.J.) and Dennis Ross, (R-Fla.) It picked up over 100 additional co-sponsors in less than a week.
HR 299 would correct a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) policy decision implemented in 2002, that unilaterally striped these veterans of the presumption of exposure granted by the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
This action was based on a 1997 General Counsel’s opinion (27-97) that interpreted the phrase “service in the Republic of Vietnam” to apply only to the landmass. This opinion ignored international recognition that national sovereignty extended to the territorial seas.
The United States specifically recognized this sovereignty in the 1954 Geneva Accords and the 1973 Paris Peace Treaty that ended the Vietnam War.
Inexplicably, the VA bureaucracy has refused to reconsider its position despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies showing a higher incidence of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma among Navy veterans who did not serve in-country.
The Australian VA also discovered that the cancer incidence among Royal Australian Navy veterans was 22 to 26 percent above the norm, compared to an 11 to 16 percent increase above the norm in those who fought onshore.