Washington, DC – Congresswoman Shea-Porter cosponsored four pieces of bipartisan legislation to help veterans. H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, would make it easier for Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange to receive disability compensation benefits. Shea-Porter also cosponsored H.R. 512, the WINGMAN Act, to streamline the process for constituent caseworkers to process veterans’ benefits claims. H.R. 411, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, would require the VA to collect new data on veterans’ suicide to better understand the causes of veteran’s suicide and identify risk factors. H.R. 488 The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, would provide a tax credit to military spouses to offset the fees associated with transferring a professional license to a new state if a Permanent Change of Station order forces the family to relocate.
The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act corrects an unfortunate VA decision in 2002 to limit the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The Agent Orange Act allowed the VA to presume that certain illnesses were the result of Agent Orange exposure and grant disability benefits to veterans based on their service location and that presumption. In 2002, the VA began requiring veterans to prove they had “boots on the ground” orders before granting disability claims and limited the definition to infantry and riverine Navy. Many who served off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims to restore their benefits, and over 32,880 of those claims were denied from 2002 to 2009. H.R. 299 extends the presumptive coverage to veterans who served up to 12 miles off-shore of Vietnam, so they can more easily receive disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.
“The bipartisan legislation I’ve cosponsored will make it easier for our Navy Vietnam veterans to receive disability benefits if they were exposed to Agent Orange. Too many veterans are denied benefits claims because of insufficient record keeping and unequitable rules. The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act would help solve this problem, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter.
Shea-Porter also cosponsored the WINGMAN Act, which grants certified Congressional staff access to the VA claims processing system in order to streamline the process for processing veterans’ casework. Currently, caseworkers that are trained and certified to view these records, must request individual documents and records from the VA, which takes time and forces the veteran to wait even longer to resolve disability claims disputes. WINGMAN would allow caseworkers to have “read-only” access to the claims processing system to speed up information sharing between VA staff and caseworkers.
“Veterans wait long enough to resolve their benefits claims; they shouldn’t be held up because of bureaucratic paperwork issues that increase the time it takes for caseworkers to review claims documents. The bipartisan legislation I cosponsored would make it easier for professional, certified Congressional caseworkers to view a veteran’s benefit claim records,” continued Shea-Porter.