Both of Montana’s U.S. Senators are urging the Senate to pass the so-called Blue Water Veterans Act before the current Congress adjourns.
That bill would extend benefits to vets who served on ships during the Vietnam War who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. At present, only troops who served on land are eligible.
"Taking care of our veterans is a cost of war," Tester says.
Democrat Jon Tester co-chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
"If we’re not willing to take care of our veterans when they get back home, we should not send them into places in this world where they might be exposed to toxins - or get shot," he continued.
The bill passed the House in June, it is opposed by the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Speaking at the same press conference Tuesday, Republican Sen. Steve Daines said:
"They’ve muddied the water on this issue, the VA has, and we’ve got some bureaucrats who’ve decided to make some interpretation and frankly reject the intent of Congress."
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has said there’s insufficient scientific evidence blue water vets were harmed by Agent Orange, and that he has concerns about the cost of extending benefits to them. The Blue Water bill would be funded by a new fee on VA home loans.