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Houses passes H.R. 299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act

Houses passes H.R. 299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act by a vote of 410-0
(Washington, D.C.) — “On the eve of the House vote on H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, VVA applauds Veterans Affairs Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) and Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe (R-TN) for their leadership and their deep resolve in ensuring our Blue Water Navy veterans receive the healthcare and benefits they have earned by virtue of their service during the Vietnam War,” said John Rowan, VVA National President. “We expect that our Senators in the 116th Congress will do the right thing and pass the bill when it appears before them.”

H.R.299, the first bill introduced this Congress by Chair Takano, is similar to a bill that was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last Congress but was stalled in the Senate by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), despite overwhelming bipartisan support. Members from both sides of the aisle will again vote to extend benefits to some 90,000 service members who served in the territorial waters off Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.

“Contrary to the VA’s assertions, noted Rowan, “we have the science that shows the pathways of exposure to this insidious herbicide.” Earlier this year, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie voiced opposition to the legislation, reversing an earlier commitment by his predecessor, Dr. David Shulkin, to “do the right thing.” Secretary Wilke has now reversed his earlier position and has urged the administration not to appeal the U.S. Appeals Court decision in Alfred Procopio, Jr., V. Robert Wilkie, which will, in fact, restore healthcare and benefits to many veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam. It will also extend benefits to veterans who served in Thailand and those who served along the DMZ in Korea at any time. “We applaud Secretary Wilke for his support in moving forward to assist Blue Water Navy Veterans,” said Rowan.

In February 2002, the VA abruptly terminated benefits to the 534,300+ Blue Water U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and FMF Marine veterans, thereby limiting the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam which encompassed ground forces and the inland rivers. Suddenly, offshore veterans stopped receiving VA health care and disability compensation. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, when signed into law, will right this wrong.

Mokie Pratt Porter
Director of Communications

VFW Brings VA Services to Remote Locations

A Montana VFW Post is the first non-VA site to house a telehealth facility, and VA wants to establish 10 similar sites by the end of 2019.

VFW Post 6786 sits seven miles from the Canadian border, more than 60 miles from the nearest VA clinic and more than 250 miles from the nearest VA hospital. Because of its remote location, VA approached the Eureka, Mont., Post in July about becoming the first non-VA location to house a telehealth facility.

Telehealth uses technology, such as video conferencing, to remotely connect patients with doctors.

Kedron Burnett, VA’s Project Advancing Telehealth through Local Access Stations (ATLAS) National Team Consultant, said VA has looked at telehealth access points for some time, but the concept of partnering with veterans service organizations began about two years ago.

Read more here.

Higher Rate of Minor Birth Defects in Children of Women Gulf War Veterans

In an April 13 news release, the American College of Environmental Medicine announced the results of a study of women veterans who had served in the 1990-91 Gulf War. The study by Melvin Blanchard, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and colleagues, included 788 children born to 522 Gulf War-era veterans. Major and minor birth defects, diagnosed by direct physical examination, were compared for offspring of veterans who were and were not deployed during the Gulf War. Women accounted for 28.5 percent of veterans in the study.

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Committee Will Study Respiratory Diseases Related to Military Burn Pits, Dust

In an April 12 story for, Patricia Kime reports a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel has launched a study on the respiratory effects of burn pits and other pollution encountered by U.S. troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The planned 21-month review marks the second time a National Academies committee has explored the subject: in 2011, a group of physicians and scientists, under what was known then as the Institute of Medicine, concluded there was insufficient evidence to link troops’ illnesses to exposure to burn pit smoke at Joint Base Balad in Iraq.

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