After Successful Passage of His Blue Water Navy Legislation, Tester Leads Call for VA to Provide Timely Benefits to Vietnam & Korean War Veterans
Senators request VA continue processing the claims of veterans who are already eligible for benefits
(U.S. Senate) - Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Jon Tester is continuing his push to ensure veterans living with the effects of toxic exposure receive the benefits and health care they earned. After President Trump signed his Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law last month, Tester and his colleagues are calling on the Administration to continue expediently processing the claims of veterans already eligible for benefits.
Tester led a group of ten Senators today in calling on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to provide timely benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans and Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) veterans. Although the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act does not go into effect until January 1, 2020, Blue Water Navy veterans who served within Vietnam's territorial waters are currently eligible for benefits due to the recent Procopio v Wilkie ruling.
In their letter, the Senators requested that VA continue to process the claims of those veterans who are already deemed eligible under this law, instead of implementing a stay on the claims.
"We urge VA to make every effort to provide timely benefits and health care to this aging population of veterans with as much urgency as possible," the Senators wrote. "Issuing a stay on the resolution of all benefits decisions will only needlessly delay the delivery of critical health care and contribute to an influx of claims that could be more appropriately managed if processors could begin their work now."
The Senators also expressed their frustration with VA's inability to provide Congress with an implementation plan and the Department's lack of communication with veterans, writing: "We request additional information on the required steps that must be taken to identify affected veterans, and regarding the process through which the delivery of benefits is carried out in a timely and accurate manner. Moving forward, we urge you to be proactive in your communication with veterans and with Congress as we continue to provide oversight over this important issue."
For years, Tester has fought tirelessly to extend VA benefits to these Vietnam veterans. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act guarantees that veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam are presumed to have been exposed to toxins such as Agent Orange and can access treatment and receive benefits from VA. President Donald Trump signed Tester's Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law on June 26, 2019.
Tester is joined by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Full text of their letter is available to read HERE.