The Senate unanimously passed legislation codifying presumptive disability benefits status for so called “blue water” Vietnam veterans on Wednesday, sending the bill to the White House to become law.
The move came roughly six months after the measure was stalled in the Senate by parliamentary objections and just a week after the end of a legal battle surrounding the Vietnam veterans’ benefits that has drug on for years.
The legislation, passed unanimously by the House last month, has been a focus of advocates fighting to ensure nearly 90,000 veterans who served on ships in the seas around Vietnam are granted the same Veterans Affairs benefits status as troops who served on the ground or on ships stationed close to shore.
The move all but ends a years long legal fight over presumptive benefits for up to 90,000 Vietnam veterans.
Under current regulations, those troops were assumed to have been exposed to toxic defoliants like Agent Orange, and were given special fast-track status when illnesses related to that chemical contamination surfaced later in life.
But in 2002, VA officials ruled that presumptive status did not apply to the blue water veterans. As a result, they had to conclusively prove their identical illnesses were a result of toxic exposure and not issues that occurred after their military service.