Veterans Affairs (VA) has traditionally classified Vietnam Navy veterans into two groups with respect to Agent Orange-related conditions: Brown Water and Blue Water. The distinction has made a significant difference in the disability benefits for which the Blue Water Navy veterans were eligible. However, that changed in 2019 with passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
If you or a loved one served in the Navy during Vietnam and were previously denied an Agent Orange-related disability claim, or you’ve never filed one, you should know your legal rights. Disability Law Group is actively representing Blue Water Navy veterans, and we can assist you with getting the compensation you deserve.
History Of The Blue Water Navy Cases
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 provided disability benefits to Vietnam veterans who were suffering a multitude of diseases associated with exposure to the chemical during the war. The VA in 2002, however, clarified that a Vietnam veteran must demonstrate they actually set foot in Vietnam in order to be presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
This requirement is significant for disability claimants. VA regulations have historically presumed a service-connected disability for diseases that developed after exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. Presumptive conditions make it easier to get disability benefits.
With this approach, therefore, the VA assigned Navy veterans to one of two groups: Brown Water and Blue Water. “Brown Water” refers to veterans who served on water crafts that operated in rivers and other inland waterways in Vietnam. “Blue Water” veterans, on the other hand, did not go ashore or into the inland waterways.
In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the VA’s position. This meant that while Brown Water veterans were eligible for the presumptive service connection, Blue Water veterans could only obtain service connection for an Agent Orange-related condition if they could demonstrate direct exposure.
In June 2019, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was signed into law. It went into effect January 1, 2020. The law extends presumptive service connection for Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy veterans. More specifically, eligible Navy veterans now include those who served on a vessel not more than 12 nautical miles from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia. Eligible veterans are those who served on a water craft from January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975. The new law also applies to veterans who had service in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
What Conditions Are Covered?
The conditions that are presumed to be related to herbicide (including Agent Orange) exposure are:
- Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis
- Chloracne, or another acneform disease consistent with chloracne
- Chronic B-cell leukemias
- Diabetes mellitus, Type 2
- Ischemic heart disease
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea)
- Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
In addition, the VA is investigating other conditions that may have a link to Agent Orange. The VA has also extended benefits to children with spina bifida whose Blue Water Navy parent may have been exposed to Agent Orange while serving.
What Benefits May I Receive?
Eligible claimants may receive monthly disability compensation payments and free healthcare-related to their Agent Orange disability. The actual amount of compensation depends on the nature and level of your disability.
How Can Blue Water Navy Veterans Apply For Benefits?
If you or a loved one have an Agent Orange-related disability, you may be able to file a claim. If the VA previously denied your claim under the previous law, you still need to file to reopen it. The law also allows eligible survivors of deceased Blue Water Navy veterans to file for compensation. That means spouses of veterans who filed claims years ago but have since passed away may be able to reopen those claims.
You should start gathering evidence related to your claim to speed up the approval process. That evidence includes:
- Records related to your service within the required time frame. You will want documentation such as the name of your vessel and the dates you served.
- Medical records concerning your Agent Orange condition. That includes evidence of a diagnosis of a current condition linked to the herbicide.
- Any information about your treatment. It may be more difficult to obtain these records if you were treated at a private healthcare facility, so the sooner you act, the better.
Let Disability Law Group Help You Today
The change in the law could have a substantial impact on the number of veterans who may qualify for benefits related to Agent Orange. The VA estimates that anywhere from 420,000 to 560,000 Vietnam-era veterans may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans.
At Disability Law Group, we help veterans win the disability benefits they deserve, and appeal denials and other decisions that affect their compensation. Our goal is to also make sure veterans understand all of the benefits for which they may be eligible. Finally, we can help you obtain the medical records and other evidence that will be critical to appealing or reopening your claim.
Veterans have served their country, and we’re proud to serve veterans. Give Disability Law Group a call today to discuss your case and schedule a consultation.