Washington D.C. – Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook) today highlighted House-passage of H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. The bill passed the House by a vote of 382—0. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
“Thank you, Representative Faso, for all of your hard work for our veterans in the 19th district. We have been working on this bill for a very long-time emailing, calling and visiting our Representatives in Washington DC to educate them as to how our sailors were exposed.” – Kingston, NY resident Carol Olszanecki, Advocate for Blue Water Navy Veterans
“Agent Orange has had a devastating effect on the health of exposed veterans, and we still do not know the full array of complications due to exposure,” said Faso. “Our veterans deserve access to the benefits that they have earned, and in this case, Blue Water Navy veterans were wronged simply due to when and where they were exposed to these toxins. Thank you to Kingston resident Carol Olszanecki and former Representative Chris Gibson who both have been tireless advocates for Blue Water Navy Veterans and shown tremendous leadership in facilitating passage of this bill. The Senate now needs to act and join us in keeping this nation’s promise.”
H.R. 299 has 330 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including Rep. Faso. This legislation has steadily gained momentum over the years since it was introduced in 2011 by former NY-19 Congressman Chris Gibson. It has been proposed every Congress since but has faced various legislative obstacles despite widespread support. In a breakthrough, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act finally passed for the first time through the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in May 2018.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 extended disability compensation to Vietnam veterans who 1) served between 1962 and 1975 and 2) exhibited a disease indicative of Agent Orange exposure. In 2002, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs interpreted the law to only cover veterans who were “boots on the ground,” meaning that they served on Vietnam’s mainland and/or the inland waterways. H.R. 299 restores this coverage for disability benefits to the Blue Water Navy veterans who were also exposed while on ships in the surrounding seas.