The House voted 410-0 Tuesday to approve a bill that would extend disability benefits to more Vietnam War veterans.
Currently, disability benefits for veterans suffering from conditions associated with exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange are limited to those who physically served in Vietnam. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) would extend those benefits to Navy veterans with similar conditions who previously were excluded because they served offshore of the country.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a statement that the legislation is long overdue. The House approved a similar measure last year, but the bill stalled in the Senate.
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“For more than 40 years, tens of thousands of veterans, their families and survivors have been denied the benefits they earned after exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War,” Takano said. “But by passing this bill tonight, we came together to right a terrible injustice.”
Roe applauded Takano’s willingness to renew the effort to extend the disability benefits to Navy veterans.
“This bill will ensure that our Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans receive the long overdue benefits that they earned,” Roe said. “I look forward to continuing our effort to advocate for this bill with our colleagues and, ultimately, send it to President Trump’s desk so that we can finally deliver on the promises made to those well-deserving veterans.”
Also on Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 fiscal years (S. 245) by a unanimous vote, including provisions to improve the security clearance process and benefits for employees of the intelligence community.
The bill would mandate a review of the security clearance application process, with an eye to reducing the investigation backlog, as well as require the federal government to come up with a policy and implementation plan for issuing interim security clearances.
Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a statement that he was successful in adding an amendment to improve the benefits for employees in the intelligence community, specifically paid parental leave.
“I am especially happy that this year’s bill contains a provision that will provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave to IC personnel, including adoptive and foster parents, matching what many private sector companies are already providing,” Warner said.