Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Overview
Published October 22, 2021
In 2019, Congress passed a law entitled “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.” This law was a long overdue mechanism to recognize Agent Orange exposure (and its related long-term health problems) in veterans who were on naval ships rather than on land during the time period of use of this herbicide in areas of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war.
PORTIONS OF THIS ARTICLE HAVE BECOME OUTDATED AS OF PASSAGE OF THE PACT ACT IN AUGUST 10, 2022. See here for an updated discussion of Agent Orange disability claims.
Who are Blue Water Navy Veterans?
Veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War are referred to as “Blue Water Navy Veterans.” There are an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 such veterans.
Before 2019, Blue Water Navy Veterans were not presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Therefore, they had a much more complex process in proving disability claims than veterans who had been deployed on the ground in Vietnam. After extensive research and lobbying, however, Congress finally extended the presumption of Agent Orange service connection to Blue Water Navy Veterans.
Blue Water Navy and Agent Orange Exposure
Although the VA has long recognized that Vietnam and some other veterans can be presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange during their service and thus presumed to have a service-connected medical condition when certain conditions are diagnosed years later, that presumption did not extend to Blue Water Navy vets who were patrolling waters a few miles offshore. Now it does. Thus, if you meet the following service location criteria, you can utilize the list of presumptive Agent Orange-related conditions in filing for a VA disability claim: during active military, naval, or air service, you served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975.
Presumptive Conditions Connected to Agent Orange Exposure
As of now, the VA has identified the following 17 conditions as being presumptively connected to Agent Orange exposure. What that means is that when you are filing for VA disability benefits, you need only provide military records showing your date and location of service falling within the designated dates/times for Agent Orange exposure and medical records confirming your diagnosis of one of these conditions, without the need of separate scientific or medical evidence showing a connection between the two, to get a finding of having a service-connected medical condition.
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Some soft tissue sarcomas
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it)
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Ischemic heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
Even if you do not have one of these presumptive conditions, you still are free to present to the VA scientific journal article or other research findings identifying a link between your condition and Agent Orange exposure. We have found such research related to skin cancers and kidney cancer, among other conditions.
New Opportunity for Previously Denied Agent Orange Claims
Passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act opens the door for new disability claims and allows previously rejected claims from Blue Water Navy Veterans to be re-evaluated.
If you previously had a claim denied because the VA determined your disability wasn’t service-connected and you fall within the new and expanded criteria, you can file a new claim based upon this change in the law. In some cases, if your claim is now approved, you may be able to obtain retroactive payments back to the date when your original claim was submitted.
How Much Compensation Can I Receive For VA Disability Claims?
VA disability payments are made based on several factors, including the severity of your disability (determined by a percentage rating system) and how many dependents you have. The VA posts the ranges for disability compensation here.
How Can Blue Water Navy Vets Apply for VA Disability Benefits?
Depending on your status, there are three paths for putting in your disability claim as a Blue Water Navy Vet. If you have already filed a claim that was filed prior to January 1, 2020, and the claim has been stayed, be patient, the VA is working through those claims. If you have never filed a disability claim before on this basis, you can file a new claim. If you previously filed a disability claim and it was denied, you can file a new claim now based on the changed law. The VA has specific forms for each of these here.
Concerning Agent Orange-related claims, you will need to provide evidence of both medical records showing the existence of an Agent Orange-related medical condition and military records showing your exposure to Agent Orange.
In preparing your claim, keep in mind the presumptions discussed above. If your medical condition is not on the presumptively service-connected list, you will need to provide some scientific or medical evidence (such as a medical journal article or research findings) that connects your condition with Agent Orange. Be sure your application and military record supporting information show that during active military, naval, or air service, you served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam from January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975.
If the VA rejects your claim or gives you a disability rating that you believe is too low, you have the right to appeal the case. It may be an optimum time to talk with a VA disability claims attorney to evaluate your options.
Get a consultation now
Veterans Law Group has successfully handled veterans’ disability claims for the past 25 years, including Agent Orange claims. Our job is to acquire and assemble the information the VA needs to easily grant your appeal. We collect reports, develop strategies, and make your best arguments to the VA on appeal. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case.