DAV: "A light at the end of this 30 year tunnel" for Blue Water Vietnam vets

Eric Dehm
May 10, 2018 - 10:24 am

US Navy Photo

Treatment and benefits through the VA for Agent Orange exposure have long been available for those who served on the ground in Vietnam. Conversely, sailors who were exposed to that same toxic defoliant while serving on ships off the coast are not eligible for any benefits.

The current eligibility requirements state that to file a claim related to Agent Orange a vet must have served "In Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, including brief visits ashore or service aboard a ship that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam."

Those requirements may soon change, following the House Veterans Affairs Committee passing legislation that would extend benefits to the "Blue Water" Navy. This crucial first step in the process comes after decades of struggle by veterans and veteran service organizations like Disabled American Veterans (DAV), to bring an end to disparate treatment of veterans afflicted with the same issues as their land-based counterparts. 

"We are looking at a light at the end of this 30 year tunnel," Atizado said during an appearance on ConnectingVets.com's Morning Briefing radio show.

The legislation passed unanimously, and is believed to have enough support in the Senate to give it a good chance to end up on the President's desk in short order. Of course, the same has been said of many previous bills that ended up stalling on the Senate floor, which is why Atizado says DAV is "cautiously optimistic" at this point, and hopeful that if it does make it to the Oval Office, those sailors will see benefits sooner rather than later. 

"I will assume that this administration, because of the importance of legislation and the relief that it provides, will expedite regulations and start paying out benefits as soon as possible," Atizado said. "It's just a matter of working the process and getting everybody time, in a very busy congressional calendar, to consider this and pass it in a timely fashion."

You can hear Atizado's full interview on the Blue Water Navy legislation, as well as the Mission Act, by clicking play below. to download and listen later click the Share button and select Download from the available options.