HARTFORD – State Representative Dave Yaccarino, the ranking member of the legislature’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, urged U.S Senator Richard Blumenthal to support a measure that would acknowledge Blue Water Navy veterans. These are veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War.
The bill, HJ 25, which was adopted by the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2016 legislation session, would require the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States, and Members of Congress to provide VA benefits to Navy veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange in the coastal waters of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975.
In a letter, Rep. Yaccarino urged Sen. Blumenthal to support the federal legislation, S.681, which is currently pending in the United States Senate. The legislation proposed, would amend the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to include this specific group of veterans who served between 1962 and 1975 along the Vietnamese coast.
Yaccarino remarked, “Countless men and women who served in Vietnam, namely the Blue Water Navy veterans, were exposed to Agent Orange and consequently experienced devastating illnesses. To this day, I hear from Vietnam-era veterans who suffer from health implications as a result. I hope that our president, vice president, and federal government will recognize this proposal and help our veterans who served this country so selflessly.”
“As a veteran of the United States Navy, I empathize with the various challenges our veterans face and I will continue to advocate on their behalf,” Yaccarino added.
A study from 2011 by the National Institute of Medicine found that Blue Water veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange by the ships’ water distillation system or through the air. The VA estimates about 80,000 blue water veterans are still alive.
Agent Orange contained the toxic chemical commonly known as dioxin, which has had harmful effects on Vietnam veterans. The VA presumes any vet who served on land in Vietnam or on boats in its inland waters was exposed to the herbicide, and it compensates them for, including diabetes, various cancers, Parkinson’s Disease, peripheral neuropathy and a type of heart disease. But the agency has repeatedly argued there’s no scientific justification or legal requirement for covering veterans who served off the coast.
Click here for a copy of Rep. Yaccarino’s letter to Sen. Blumenthal.