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Navy veterans could soon get Agent Orange health benefits

Congress is working on a bill that would extend health benefits to Navy veterans living in California and elsewhere who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The bill, called the Blue Water Navy bill, is currently before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

The U.S. military sprayed Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide, throughout Vietnam in an effort to destroy the jungle vegetation used as cover by enemy troops. However, the chemical has been shown to cause cancer and a number of other serious ailments. It can also cause birth defects, such as spina bifida, in the children of exposed victims. U.S. veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam already have access to health coverage for Agent Orange-related illnesses, but that coverage has been denied to around 90,000 Navy veterans, known as Blue Water veterans.

Over the past two years, the bill has faced resistance because lawmakers couldn't decide how to pay for it. However, a proposal to pay for the coverage by slightly raising the fees for non-disabled military members and veterans using V.A. home loans seems to have wide support in Congress. If the bill passes in the House of Representatives, it will proceed to the Senate. If passed, the bill would provide healthcare, disability and death benefits for affected Navy veterans and their families.

Military veterans may find it helpful to seek the aid of an attorney when applying for veterans' benefits. An attorney may be able to inform a veteran of all the benefits he or she is entitled to and help prepare the necessary forms. In cases where a benefits claim has been denied, an attorney might appeal the decision on behalf of the veteran.

Source: WFLA, "Vietnam era veterans and their children on cusp of expanded benefits," Steve Andrews, May 4, 2018

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