Dr. Barry J. Schneider, the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. is expressing our gratitude to the U.S. House of Representatives for unanimously passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
The unanimous vote last night will positively impact thousands of lives, and it once again proves that taking care of veterans and their families is a nonpartisan issue, as well as one of the cornerstones of JWV’s founding responsibilities of taking care of servicemembers before, during and after their service. The JWV-supported bill now heads to the Senate. Once signed into law, H.R. 299 will restore VA benefits to thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 following regulatory changes. It will also require the VA to contact those veterans who had filed claims that were later denied. Those veterans could be eligible for retroactive benefits.
The legislation will also mark a victory for other veterans and their families who suffer from conditions related to toxic exposures. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving along the Korean DMZ will have an earlier start date to encompass the timeframe when various defoliants were tested. The current start date of April 1, 1968, will be backed up seven months to Sept. 1, 1967.
Additionally, benefits will expand to include children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure in Thailand. Coverage for this condition already exists for the children of Vietnam and Korean DMZ veterans. The new law will also require the VA to report on research being conducted on a broad range of conditions possibly related to service in Southwest Asia, which is important for future legislative efforts to create a list of presumptive conditions for veterans seeking VA health care and benefits.
Despite the fact that the Senate failed to pass H.R. 299 in the previous session of Congress, the situation is now one step closer to being rectified with a positive outcome. The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. does not want to allow this to happen again to any service member of any generation, with any potential exposures and we are urging every veteran, family member and advocate to contact their elected officials to get this bill passed and signed into law as soon as possible.