Forward Observer: VA Ordered into Delayed Action on ‘Blue Water Navy’ Veterans
As a result of Public Law 116-23, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 signed into law on 25 June, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — having finally acknowledged its responsibility to attend to Blue Water Navy as a result of a recent court decision — has been given a short reprieve on “Blue Water Navy” claims decisions.
The U.S. Congress, which previously lacked the courage to act on this longstanding issue until after that court decision, now gives the VA until 1 January 2020 to begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims for those who served in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam (defined in the Act) between 9 January 1962 and 7 May 1975. The VA has stated that veterans over age 85 or with life-threatening illnesses are to have priority in claims processing.
From another point of view, this action gives the VA the necessary time to ensure it has the proper resources to process an anticipated onslaught of veteran and survivor claims. During previous testimony, it was estimated that between 52,000 and 90,000 veterans were affected. For some reason, it is now estimated that between 420,000 and 560,000 Vietnam-era veterans may be considered Blue Water Navy veterans.
However, these affected veterans are encouraged to submit their disability compensation claims for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure now. And, those veterans who previously were denied for an Agent Orange related presumptive conditions should file a new claim based upon this change in law. Eligible survivors of Blue Water Navy veterans may also benefit from the new law and should consider resubmitting their claims if previously denied. We still recommend you consult an accredited Veterans Service Officer — and not do this action on your own to ensure a thorough review of your situation.
Understand that under the new law, the veteran must have a disease associated with herbicide exposure, as listed in 38 Code of Federal Regulations section 3.309(e). The presumptive conditions which currently apply are:
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne or similar acneform disease
- Chronic B-cell leukemias
- Diabetes mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- 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).
For more information, visit www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/agent-orange/vietnam-waters/.
As of 5 July 2019