Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act Becomes Law

Last Tuesday, June 25th, the President of the United States signed H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, into law. To all of you who took action and messaged your legislators, attended our webinar and told your friends and family about this issue; thank you, this victory is yours.

The law, which takes effect January 1, 2020, will extend disability benefits to veterans who served between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, along a line of demarcation spelled out in the bill. The President’s signature signals the end of a decades-long fight for these former sailors and Marines to receive compensation for diseases presumed to be caused by exposure to the chemicals known as Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War.

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a ruling in favor of the veterans, saying Congress never intended to exclude service members in the seas around Vietnam in the original legislation that awarded veterans benefits.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department decided against appealing the court’s decision.

The law will also extend disability compensation to personnel who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), during the period beginning on September 1, 1967, and ending on August 31, 1971, as well as benefits for children suffering from spina bifida whose parent served in Thailand during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975.

There is some concern among veteran advocates that the law is more narrowly tailored than the court ruling due to the geographic lines spelled out in the bill, which did not exist in the courts holding. If you believe you are one of those veterans whose ship did not enter into the geographic zone as described in the legislative text, than we encourage you to file your benefit claim now, before the law takes effect in January.

View our guide on this and other issues related to veterans with myeloma.