Understanding the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

As of January 1, 2020, navy veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1961, and May 7, 1975, can be eligible for benefits if they developed certain herbicide exposure-related illnesses afterward. Before the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (Blue Water Act), the Veterans Administration (VA) only granted benefits requests to veterans who became ill after exposure to Agent Orange herbicides on the land or “brown water.” 

“Brown water” refers to rivers and other inland bodies of water. The Blue Water Act extends disability benefits coverage to veterans who served in “blue water,” which the Act defines as offshore waters within 12 nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam and some other areas. A Blue Water Navy veterans attorney can walk you through the eligibility requirements and help you go after the benefits you deserve.

An Overview of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

The United States military used strong herbicides to quickly kill plants in areas with thick vegetation where there were military operations. Agent Orange was the primary tactical weedkiller the armed forces used to clear these overgrown areas. After discovering that Agent Orange could cause severe illnesses and death to servicemembers exposed to these chemicals, the Veterans Administration (VA) began paying disability benefits to qualified veterans.

The original Agent Orange benefits program provided disability benefits to people to military members who served “in the Republic of Vietnam.” Now, the Blue Water Act presumes Agent Orange exposure for members of the military who served on land, on inland waterways, or on blue water in or within a certain distance of Vietnam and Cambodia or on specific military installations in Thailand. Some veterans who served in the Korean DMZ can also get Agent Orange VA disability benefits.

Conditions Covered by the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

Under the Blue Water Act, people who fall under the protection of the Act and have any of these conditions do not have to prove that they had exposure to Agent Orange:

  • Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis 
  • Chloracne, or other acneiform diseases consistent with chloracne 
  • All Chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia) 
  • Diabetes mellitus, Type 2 
  • Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease 
  • Multiple myeloma 
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s 
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset 
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda 
  • Prostate Cancer 
  • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea) 
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma) 
  • Ischemic heart disease 
  • Parkinson’s disease 

Covered veterans do not have to prove that the military-related herbicide exposure caused their illness because the Veterans Administration will presume that Agent Orange was the culprit. 

If the VA denied your previous benefits request, you have a disease on the presumptive list, and you fall under the coverage of the Blue Water Act, you can resubmit your claim. If a veteran dies during the claims process, a living dependent spouse or child can ask to get substituted as the claimant. The VA can award dependency indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits under the Act.

You can consult with a Blue Water Navy attorney to find out if you are eligible for these and other VA disability benefits. Get in touch with our office today.