The decades-long fight for Blue Water Navy veterans to receive VA disability benefits for illnesses linked to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War is over; but the claims paperwork and waiting remains.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began deciding claims for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 at 12:01 a.m., Philippine Standard Time, Jan. 1, 2020, as the the Philippines is the farthest east VA regional benefits office.
The Act extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, that include toxins such as Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Signed into law Jun. 25, 2019 the law specifically affects Blue Water Navy (BWN) Veterans who served no more than 12 nautical miles offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 6, 1962 and May 7, 1975, as well as Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between Jan. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971. These Veterans can now apply for disability compensation and other benefits if they have since developed one of 14 conditions that are presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides. Veterans do not need to prove that they were exposed to herbicides.
- AL Amyloidosis
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin
- Hodgkin’s Disease
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia
- Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain
- Multiple Myeloma
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue
- Parkinson’s Disease
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure.
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
- Prostate Cancer
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men
- Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues
“Tens of thousands of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War but wrongly denied benefits that justice is finally coming. By passing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, Congress has proven to the nation, to our veterans and their families, and the surviving loved ones of those we lost to toxic exposure, that we have righted a terrible injustice. I want to say thank you to the Veteran Service Organizations and the countless veterans across the country who have been with us throughout this fight.Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.)
To be eligible a Veteran must have served in the identified locations during the specified time period and currently have a condition(s) associated with herbicide exposures, such as Agent Orange. Blue Water Navy claims are being processed under current prioritization criteria; however, special priority is being given to Veterans who are over the age of 85 or have a terminal condition. Qualifying recipients include affected Veterans who are still living and certain survivors of deceased BWN and Korean DMZ Veterans.
Survivors can file claims for benefits based on the Veteran’s service if the Veteran died from at least one of the 14 presumptive conditions associated with herbicides such as Agent Orange. The law also provides benefits for children born with spina bifida if their parent is or was a Veteran with certain verified service in Thailand during a specific period.
The Act includes provisions impacting the VA Home Loan Program. Veterans have more access to obtain no-down payment home loans, regardless of loan amount, and the home loan funding fee is reduced for eligible Reservists and National Guard borrowers who use their home loan benefits for the first time. VA’s website describes the eligibility of certain Purple Heart recipients who do not have to pay a funding fee as well as other benefits.
Veterans who want to file an initial claim for an herbicide-related disability can use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits or work with a VA-recognized Veterans Service Organization to assist with the application process. Veterans may also contact their state Veterans Affairs Office.
BWN Veterans who previously filed a claim seeking service connection for one of the 14 presumptive conditions that was denied by VA may provide or identify any new and relevant information regarding their claim when reapplying. To re-apply, Veterans may use VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. As a result of the new law, VA will automatically review claims that are currently in the VA review process or under appeal. Visit Blue Water Navy Veterans benefits for more information or call 1-800-749-8387 for special issues.
After Decades of Fighting, the Blue Water Navy Benefits Bill Is Now a Law June 2019 Military.com
White House Responsible for Delayed Decision on New Agent Orange Diseases, Documents Show Oct 2019 Military.com
Many Vietnam Vets Don’t Know They Now Qualify for Agent Orange Benefits Nov 2018 AARP