President Trump signs HR 299 into law!
Jun 26, 2019 —
President Trump yesterday signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law, finally bringing Congressional recognition to 90,000 veterans who served in the bays, harbors and territorial sea of Vietnam during that conflict. Unfortunately, in-artful wording on the part of House Chairman Mark Takano (D-California) may have cut off benefits for up to 55,000 additional veterans who served offshore Vietnam but outside the territorial sea. This includes a number of carrier sailors who were exposed by the surging waters of the Mekong River that discharged into the South China Sea.
The legislation was made possible by the court victory in the landmark case of Procopio v. Wilkie which was brought by Military-Veterans Advocacy on behalf of Navy veteran Al Procopio. The Procopio case required the VA to provide benefits to the veterans out of existing appropriations and to do so immediately. Conversely, the Takano bill forced an increase in veteran home loan guarantee fees while delaying implementation until June of 2020. More importantly, a pathway to benefits for those who served just outside the territorial sea may have been cut off by the poor draftsmanship.
Military-Veterans Advocacy is saddened and disappointed by the rush to claim credit by the larger veterans groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Vetnam Veterans of America. These groups provided nothing mroe than lip sevice during the ten year campaign to resotre benefits. The credit belongs to a band of volunteers within the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. Led by Mrs. Susie Belanger, a Gansevoort, New York housewife and former Navy spouse, this group of disabled former sailors spearheaded the successful effort. Military-Veterans Advocacy was proud to ally with these citizen sailors who selflessly devoted time and money to this effort.
The battle for benefits for the Blue Water Navy should have ended with the signing of the legislation. Unfortunately it did not. We will continue to work with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association to win benefits for every veteran exposed.
John B Wells
Commander USN (ret)
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