TRUMBULL, Conn. — In a sign of legislative unity for Blue Water Navy Veterans, all members of the House of Representatives, including State Reps. David Rutigliano (R-Trumbull) and Laura Devlin (R-Trumbull, Fairfield) supported a resolution urging the federal government to provide VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam between 1962-75.
“Our Blue Water Navy veterans deserve full VA benefits. My hope is the federal government will recognize this resolution as a stand in solidarity with them,” Devlin said.
“Agent Orange is a toxic chemical which caused major health problems and illnesses to our bravest soldiers," Rutigliano said. "The Blue Water Navy vets deserve to be recognized by our government.”
A study from 2011 by the National Institute of Medicine found Blue Water veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange by the ships’ water distillation system or through the air.
The VA estimates about 80,000 of these veterans still are alive.
Agent Orange contained the toxic chemical commonly known as dioxin, which has had harmful effects on Vietnam veterans. The VA presumes any vet who served on land in Vietnam or on boats in its inland waters was exposed to the herbicide, and it compensates them for a litany of associated illnesses, including diabetes, various cancers, Parkinson’s Disease, peripheral neuropathy and a type of heart disease.
The agency repeatedly has said there’s no scientific justification or legal requirement for covering veterans who served off the coast.
The Blue Water vets have been fighting the VA for more than 10 years. They initially were deemed eligible for compensation under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, only to have the VA change its interpretation a decade later.