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The House easily approved legislation that will broaden the list of veterans and family eligible for V.A. benefits who suffer from diseases associated with exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange during the Vietnam War as well as those who served in the Korean DMZ.

Vietnam War veterans who served in country can receive medical treatments and compensation for disease and illnesses that are presumed to be a result of exposure to these toxic substances. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act expands the list to include veterans who served on ships that patrolled the Vietnam waterways as well as those who served in the Korean demilitarized zone.

The bill passed 382-0, and had been co-sponsored by all five House members from Connecticut. Rep. Joe Courtney was the bill’s main sponsors, which had 330 bipartisan cosponsors in the House.

“Blue water veterans have waited decades for action and fairness from the VA and from Congress,” Courtney said. “I am proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis to finally get this this important and long-overdue legislation passed in the House.”

Every member of Connecticut’s House delegation supported the bill.

Representative Elizabeth Esty, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, issued a statement calling passage a “momentous step forward for Blue Water Vietnam veterans.

“It is the government’s responsibility to provide medical treatment and compensation for all veterans exposed to toxic substances within the scope of their military duties,” she said.

Esty explained that during the Vietnam War more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide “Agent Orange” were sprayed to remove jungle vegetation. The toxic substance has been linked to cause a number of serious health problems, including cancer and Parkinson’s disease. A 1991 law enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for medical conditions related to their exposure to Agent Orange. The VA changed the qualifications a decade later limiting the benefits to those who served on the ground in Vietnam. Those who served in the waters off of the Vietnamese coast or in bays and harbors had to file individual claims to restore their benefits, who had their claims decided on a case-by-case basis resulting in costly and timely delays, she said.

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