Senator Jeff Merkley responded to reports that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday that he will recommend the U.S. Department of Justice not fight a January court ruling that ordered the VA to provide health care and benefits to veterans who served on Navy or Coast Guard ships during the Vietnam War.
“This is welcome news. For years I have been fighting alongside the Oregon Blue Water Navy veterans and supporting organizations to get the full health care and disability benefits owed to all veterans exposed to Agent Orange. We make a pact with those who serve that we will be there for them just like they stood up for all of us. We’ve been delinquent on that promise to approximately 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans who have suffered the health consequences of serving their country, and now the VA is finally meeting that obligation.
“But the fight for proper care for this group of veterans is not over. That is why I am co-sponsoring the Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act of 2019 and other legislation that would extend benefits to every veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during their service, no matter where or when they served. It is a complete injustice to exclude so many veterans from necessary care. These men and women answered the call for their country, and it’s past time their country took care of them. Their sacrifices should be recognized, and they deserve access to the highest quality health care and benefits.”