Congresswoman Elaine Luria Speaks on House Floor and Votes to Pass Bill to Help Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans

May 14, 2019
Press Release
20-Year Navy Veteran Urges Speedy Senate Action

WASHINGTON – After several instances of fighting on behalf of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans in Congress, Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) today spoke on the House floor and voted in support of a bill she proudly cosponsored that would bring overdue health and disability benefits to a long-neglected group of veterans.

“I’m thankful to the House of Representatives for stepping up to the plate and fulfilling our responsibility to our veterans and their service to America,” Congresswoman Luria said on the House floor Tuesday afternoon. “Our Senate colleagues should do the same so we can get this legislation to the White House and pass it into law.”

A few hours later, Congresswoman Luria, the chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference in support of the bill. [After clicking the link, please scroll to 8:52.] H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, then passed the House this evening.

Video of Congresswoman Luria’s House floor remarks can be seen here, and the text of her floor speech can be read below.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.

As a Navy veteran myself, this issue hits close to home, specifically in Coastal Virginia, the district I have the honor of representing.

At my first town hall after taking office, the wife of a Virginia Beach Vietnam veteran posed a deeply personal question. She said to me: “Where is the Blue Water Sailor Bill? I have a dying vet at home from Agent Orange that wants his country to respond to his service during Vietnam.”

After the town hall, I talked with her more in depth on the issue and, with tears in her eyes, she asked me again for help and to make sure Congress did not forget her husband’s service and what he sacrificed for our country.

I stand today to speak on behalf of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act so that my constituent, and so many others across the nation, will know that we have not forsaken their service.

I’m thankful to the House of Representatives for stepping up to the plate and fulfilling our responsibility to our veterans and their service to America. And I’m proud to support their cause today.

This bipartisan bill on the floor would finally correct an injustice for veterans who are suffering and dying from conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, and who have been unfairly denied VA disability and health benefits for more than four decades.

For those who may not know, Blue Water Navy Veterans are servicemembers who served at sea off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

A federal court in January ruled that VA was wrong in denying disability and health benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans who were exposed to the toxin Agent Orange.

However, the administration has not yet committed to implementing this decision. As a result, Blue Water Navy Veterans are still in limbo, and Congress must act to secure their benefits.

I urge quick House passage of our bipartisan legislation so our Senate colleagues can do the same and get this to the White House and pass it into law.

Thank you.

Background:

Blue Water Navy Veterans are servicemembers who served at sea off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Until recently, Blue Water Navy Veterans were not eligible for benefits based on herbicide exposure that are currently available to those who served on land within Vietnam. In January, a federal appeals court reversed that determination in Procopio v. Wilkie, but the ruling could still be appealed to the Supreme Court and overturned. The House acted today to pass legislation to secure benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans.

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.

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