Sending Office: Honorable Joe Courtney
Sent By:
Claire.Wardius@mail.house.gov

        Request for Signature(s)

Current signers (9): Schakowsky, Kirkpatrick, Sanford Bishop, Moore, Vela, Vargas, Cox, Norton, Weber.

Dear Colleague, 

I invite you to join me in writing to Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, to urge that the service provide maximum possible support to the VA in determining eligibility for veterans who served aboard submarines for benefits under the Blue Water Vietnam
Veterans Act (PL 116-23). Letter text can be found below.

Although the law is clear that veterans that served aboard submarines in the waters around Vietnam and were affected by chemicals commonly known as Agent Orange are eligible for care beginning on its January 1, 2020 effective date, these submarine veterans
are currently on track to have to wait even longer to access the benefits of this legislation. Although the VA is currently developing a ship locator tool that will be used to confirm eligibility for Blue Water veterans, this tool will
not include submarines when it is rolled out.

The classification of submarine location and operational data means confirming eligibility for submarine veterans is more challenging – but I believe the extra effort is worth it to ensure our submarine veterans receive the care they deserve under the law.
Please join us in encouraging the Navy to expedite providing the VA the information needed to serve these vets.

To sign onto this letter, please fill out the form at this
link
. We plan is to close this letter at COB on Friday, December 6th. If you have any further questions, please contact Claire Wardius in my office at claire.wardius@mail.house.gov or at 202-225-2076. 

Sincerely, 

 

JOE COURTNEY

 

December XX, 2019

 

Thomas B. Modly                                                                         
Acting Secretary of the Navy                                                                     
2000 Navy Pentagon                                                                   

Washington, DC 20350                                                                   

 

Dear Acting Secretary Modly,

We write today to encourage your attention at the highest level on the Navy’s involvement in determining the eligibility of veterans who served aboard submarines for benefits under the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act (PL 116-23), which will go into effect
on January 1, 2020.

In the report accompanying H.R. 299, the intent of Congress with regard to submarine veterans under this now-law was clear: “This bill contemplates coverage of all vessels that served
on or below the offshore waters of Vietnam.”

We were encouraged by the testimony of Under Secretary for Field Operations at the Veterans Benefit Administration, Mr. Willie Clark, at an October 30th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that the VA plans to conduct additional research to confirm
eligibility for submarine veterans. We are concerned, however, that the process is not moving quickly enough to align with the January 1st implementation, particularly for those affected veterans experiencing life-threatening, debilitating illnesses as a result
of exposure to chemicals commonly known as Agent Orange.

It appears that while many of our Blue Water Vietnam veterans will be able to benefit from the law beginning on January 1st, resolution will not be as timely for submarine veterans, who will have to wait weeks and perhaps months longer for the VA to adjudicate
their cases despite the clear intent discussed above. Blue Water Vietnam veterans have waited long enough for resolution of this issue, and, while we understand the additional burden posed by confirming eligibility for submarine veterans of Vietnam, those
individuals should not have to continue to wait to receive the care they deserve.

Therefore, we strongly urge the Navy to continue to provide its full attention and support to the VA so it can to help confirm eligibility for these submarine veterans, to include locations of submarines or simply confirmation that they operated within 12
nm as outlined in PL 116-23, so these veterans can receive benefits on parity with their surface Navy brethren.

We request that you provide a plan to us within 30 days of receipt of this correspondence. We look forward to your response and continuing our work on behalf of all veterans.

 

Sincerely,

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information:Armed Services, HealthCare, Veterans

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