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Courtney Leads Bipartisan Delegation Urging Navy to Support Blue Water Submarine Veterans Seeking Care Through the VA

December 13, 2019
Press Release

Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, made public a letter he led along with a bipartisan coalition of 45 Members of Congress to Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, encouraging the Navy to provide maximum possible support to the VA as the VA works to confirm the eligibility of Vietnam veterans who served aboard submarines for benefits under the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act (PL 116-23), which is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. The VA relies on information and records from the Navy to confirm which vessels served in the waters in and around Vietnam during the time period prescribed in the law. Rep. Courtney was joined by 45 of his colleagues in sending the letter, which can be viewed here and below.

“I was proud to see Congress at last take action on this critical issue related to the exposure of our Blue Water veterans to chemicals commonly known as Agent Orange when the House passed H.R. 299 in May, with the Senate following shortly thereafter,” said Congressman Courtney. “As we approach the effective date of this legislation, however, the VA is not yet prepared to include submarines in the ‘ship locator tool’ that VA employees will use to confirm eligibility for affected veterans. This means that our submarine veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War will have to wait even longer to receive care under this new law. I’m committed to ensuring that our submariners are treated on parity with their shipmates who served aboard surface ships to the greatest extent possible, and that’s why I led this letter to Acting Secretary Modly urging him to give this issue the highest possible consideration.”

The ship locator tool and the current challenges in confirming the eligibility of submarine veterans for the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act were discussed in an October 30th hearing of the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Disability Benefits & Memorial Affairs. The letter requested that the Navy provide a response on its plan for how it will assist the VA on this issue to Congress within 30 days of receipt.

Courtney has been a lead cosponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act every session since the 112th Congress.

Rep. Courtney has also created a resource page for veterans who may qualify for benefits under the new law which provides guidance on how to apply or reapply, as necessary. You can view the page online here.