Defoliants were used by both the United States and the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1962-1975) to reduce enemy cover, improve perimeter visibility, and kill enemy crops. Agent Orange is the most infamous of the tactical herbicides whose names became shortened to the identifying color band on the drum in which they were shipped and stored. These toxic herbicides have created a host of health problems in Vietnam Veterans who are now aged 62 and up.
Ground Troop and Navy Vet Claims Will Now Be Treated the Same
While ground troops received increased disability and compensation benefits, the 90,000 Vietnam War veterans in the Navy (blue water veterans) were left out of the automatically available disability compensation package. Blue water vets had to prove their exposure to the harmful chemical agents before being awarded specific benefits and process status, which can total thousands of dollars a month per veteran. Ground troops are presumptively exempted from proof of exposure. Under the previous rules, forces on the ground or inland patrolled rivers were given special status when filing their disability claims that sped up the process and immediately qualified them for benefits.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 acknowledges 14 service-connected conditions related to herbicide exposure for veterans who served as far as 12 nautical miles from the shores of Vietnam and those in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It also made changes to the VA Home Loan Program in 2020 to provide more helpful financial resources.
Blue water veterans have been fighting in the courts for years for disability benefits made available to other Vietnam War vets within the Veterans Administration system. Receiving benefits for blue water vets who were located in the waters of the shore of Southeast Asia has allowed many disabled veterans to pay for the health care services they need and relieve financial burdens for themselves and their families. They no longer have to prove the disability is linked to service decades after the toxic exposure occurred. Now blue water veterans claims, citing cancer and other health issues that mirror their ground troop vet counterparts in Vietnam, are treated the same.
With additional benefits for deserving blue water veterans, the Act also generated a substantial VA bill to cover the newest disability claims at an estimated $1.1 billion over ten years, but the figure could be over $5 billion. That’s a big hit to the VA budget, but it’s also the right course of action for deserving veterans.
Contact a Veterans Benefits Attorney Today
If you are a blue water veteran or have a loved one that is, contact our knowledgeable veterans benefits attorneys to navigate the complex disability claims process. Disability benefits for your Vietnam service may make all the difference if you’re struggling to manage health care services and costs. You may also qualify for other VA benefits. We can explain all the programs that may be available to you and ensure you get the maximum amount you deserve.
If you have questions about eligibility for Veterans benefits or other estate planning questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Veterans benefits attorneys work in the area of elder law and help with long-term care planning for those in need of in-home, assisted living, and nursing home care. We find the right solutions for you and your family. For legal advice, please contact our Wichita office at 316-830-5603.