Higgins supported legislation extending benefits to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange
Congressman Brian Higgins announced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 has been signed by President Donald Trump and is now law. The bill (H.R. 299), cosponsored by Higgins, passed in the House on May 14 and was approved by the Senate on June 12.
Higgins said, “Many who served during the Vietnam War were unknowingly exposed to dangerous chemicals, impacting their health and quality of life. This will right a wrong for veterans who have been denied benefits for decades.”
H.R. 299 expands benefits to an estimated 90,000 Vietnam veterans and their families after exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide that is associated with various diseases, including cancer and diabetes, that was sprayed to remove vegetation providing enemy cover during the Vietnam War.
When Congress first took action to address the health effects of Agent Orange in 1991, benefits were given to those who served on the ground in Vietnam, but not necessarily to those who served off the coast in Vietnamese waters. A January 2019 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled the Blue Water Navy Veterans who were stationed in the waters off the coast of Vietnam are also entitled to the same benefits as ground forces exposed to Agent Orange. This legislation codifies that decision.
The provisions of the bill will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.