Rutigliano and Devlin push for federal recognition of Blue Water Navy veterans

In a sign of legislative unity for our Blue Water Navy Veterans, all members of the House of Representatives including State Reps. David Rutigliano (R-123) and Laura Devlin (R-134) supported a State House resolution urging the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States, and Members of Congress to provide VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975.

“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,” said Rep. Devlin.

Rep. Rutigliano said, “Agent Orange is a toxic chemical which caused major health problems and illnesses to our bravest soldiers. The Blue Water Navy vets deserve to be recognized by our government.”

A study from 2011 by the National Institute of Medicine found that 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 blue water veterans are still 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. But the agency has repeatedly argued there’s no scientific justification or legal requirement for covering veterans who served off the coast.

The group of Blue Water vets — so named to set the sailors apart from their Brown Water Navy counterparts, who patrolled the murky rivers of South Vietnam — has been fighting the VA for more than 10 years. They were initially deemed eligible for compensation under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, only to have the VA change its interpretation a decade later.

The resolution will be sent to the President, the Vice President, the Veterans Affairs Chairperson positions in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and each member of the Connecticut congressional delegation.