WASHINGTON D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Decades after their service nearly a hundred thousand Vietnam veterans will be able to get the benefits they’ve been fighting for. President Trump recently signed the bill into law that allows the V-A to process more Agent Orange benefits. However, some veterans advocates argue they don’t have time left to wait.
A new law expands benefits to veterans harmed by Agent Orange off the coast of Vietnam. Before the Blue Water Navy Act, those benefits were only available to veterans who fought on the mainland.
“We see and hear from veterans who are sick and dying.” Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes said.
Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs said it was preparing to process claims but doesn’t have to make a decision on them until the law officially takes effect on January 1st.
Carlos Fuentes with Veterans of Foreign Wars says the V-A might take quicker action if it supported Blue Water Navy in the first place.
“The VA has fought Blue Water Navy and it’s because they did not believe the evidence,” Funtes said, “There are some claims the VA can start rating now and they should.”
Before it passed VA Secretary Robert Wilkie spoke out against the bill-writing to Congress quote
“We urge the committee to consider the scientific evidence, impact on other veterans and costs associated with this legislation.”
Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman didn’t share those concerns.
“To me, it’s pretty simple. If you served our country in the armed service, you were exposed to Agent Orange and you have health complications from it, the VA should address those concerns and take care of you.” U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman/(R) Arkansas said.
Roughly 90,000 Vietnam veterans will receive the expanded benefits those like Fuentes who served in Iraq and Afghanistan hope they don’t have to wait decades to get the help they need.
A Senate committee plans to hold a hearing soon over toxic exposure issues.