Washington, D.C. –The House of Representatives has passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act – legislation Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) cosponsored that expands benefits for Vietnam Blue Water Navy veterans who are currently suffering from diseases they developed as a result of their service.

“Our district is home to more veterans than any district in New York State, and our offices know firsthand the frustrations that the Blue Water vets are facing trying to get the benefits they need and deserve,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). “Our brave veterans served heroically and we should never leave them behind. I am pleased that House Leadership has heard our call to pass this critical veterans bill to ensure our Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans receive the benefits they have earned. I thank Susie Belanger from my district for her tireless advocacy on this issue, and I urge the Senate to swiftly follow suit and send this to the President’s desk.”

“Thank you Rep. Stefanik for supporting H.R. 299,” said Susie Belanger, Blue Water Navy Association. “Passage of this bill will affect many constituents of mine as well as veterans across the United States. When these honorable veterans took an oath to defend this nation at all costs -- including their lives -- our country made a promise to care for them when they returned.  This bill makes our Congress accountable in keeping that promise.  The Vietnam veterans have always fought for agent Orange and PTSD, paving the way for future warriors so they do not have to fight decades for their earned and deserved benefits.  God bless them for not only standing up for themselves but all veterans.”


  • During the Vietnam War, more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide “Agent Orange” were sprayed to remove jungle foliage. A toxic chemical in the herbicide has since been linked to devastating health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), various cancers, Type II Diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The Agent Orange Act of 1991 (AOA) empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions.
  • However, in 2002, the VA stopped giving benefits to blue water veterans and limited the scope of the AOA to only those veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off of the Vietnamese coast or in bays and harbors were required to file individual claims to restore their benefits, which have then been decided on a case-by-case basis.

Key Provisions:

  • Restores the presumptive coverage for those who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam that existed prior to 2002 and lifts the burden from the individual veteran to prove direct exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Reduces backlogged VA claims for veterans who are suffering from diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange, therefore reducing the overall VA backlog.
  • Extends a presumption of Agent Orange exposure for veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Sept. 1, 1967, through Aug. 31, 1971.
  • Authorizes the VA to provide health care, vocational training, and a monetary allowance to veterans’ children born with spina bifida, if the veterans served in Thailand from Jan. 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, and were exposed to Agent Orange.
  • Requires the VA to report to Congress within 180 days of enactment on the latest findings of a follow-up study on symptoms affecting Gulf War veterans.

H.R. 299 is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., the Fleet Reserve Association, the Blue Water Navy Association, and the Vietnam Veterans Association. 

More information about H.R. 299 including a summary of the legislation and bill text can be found here.