Congresswoman Elaine Luria Advocates for Blue Water Veterans
WASHINGTON – At a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing this week, Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) Subcommittee Chairwoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) sought clarity from top U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials on benefits for an estimated 52,000 Blue Water Navy Veterans.
Blue Water Navy Veterans are sailors who served at sea off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Until recently, Blue Water Navy Veterans were not eligible for the same disability benefits as those who served within Vietnam itself. In January, a federal appeals court reversed that determination in Procopio v. Wilkie.
However, as VA officials prepare to comply with the ruling, it is unclear whether Blue Water Navy Veterans will also qualify for healthcare benefits administered by the VA. At this week’s hearing, Congresswoman Luria asked VA Secretary Robert Wilkie about the potential discrepancy.
“I appreciate your assurance that, if Procopio stands, you’ll follow the [court ruling], but I wanted to further clarify,” Congresswoman Luria said. “My understanding is that the decision only includes Blue Water Veterans for the purposes of VA benefits. But for the purposes of VA health care, would you, within your discretion as Secretary, extend Priority 6 health care for the Blue Water Veterans?”
Priority 6 is the VA healthcare group for veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
Secretary Wilkie responded to Rep. Luria by saying: “I would assume that … would be the case. I don’t know legally.” He added that he would “ask the lawyers and get you a complete answer.”
Once her request is fulfilled, Congresswoman Luria will announce the VA’s answer.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.