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Blue Water Veterans Forced to Wait Years for Application Decisions

Thursday, February 10, 2022
Blue Water Veterans Forced to Wait Years for Application Decisions

Many Blue Water Veterans have yet to receive the benefits that they deserve.

In January of 2020, the VA started accepting Blue Water applications due to the passing of new laws granting Blue Water Veterans access to benefits. Previously, since these veterans may not have technically set boots on the ground in Vietnam, they were ineligible for Agent Orange-related benefits. The new law was a huge sign of hope for over half a million veterans.

Now, over two years later, many of these veterans have yet to receive the benefits that they deserve. This is primarily due to the delays caused by COVID-19, which at the start, forced most VA offices to close. The processing of these new Blue Water applications came to a halt, placing many veterans on waiting lists for medical exams.

Among these veterans is Ray Sarbacker, a navy veteran whose carrier was stationed in the Gulf of Vietnam. One of his responsibilities was cleaning Agent Orange off helicopters and planes after returning from missions. At 78-years-old, Sarbacker has heart issues, diabetes, and Stage 3 kidney disease, all conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. He’s currently hoping that he will hear about his long-overdue benefits from the VA, which will eventually be at least $152.64 a month, a figure that could go up significantly.

Sarbacker’s application has been pending for three years, and he is not alone. The pandemic has forced Sarbacker to deal with the same bureaucracy as always, made more complicated by COVID-19 and associated restrictions.

Much of the delays Sarbacker and veterans like him are facing were impacted significantly by the National Personnel Records Center, forced to operate grossly understaffed due to COVID. Subsequently, the backlog of VA requests skyrocketed, and the department has been working to shrink it ever since. As of late January 2022, military records needed from the National Personnel Records Center were taking approximately 18 months to be received. These records impact everything from medical care to state tax deductions for veterans. It is estimated that the backlog will not be resolved until the end of 2022.

For the time being, it looks like Blue Water Veterans like Ray Sarbacker will continue to wait for the wheels of government to turn. The VA has said that it is taking steps to reduce the backlog and hopes to make a significant dent by April 2024. For many veterans, that means forgoing the crucial benefits they deserve.

Veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure should not be discouraged from submitting an application because of the delays. Our New York disability lawyers are here to assist with any questions regarding benefits. Call us at 855-208-7783 or complete an online intake form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation today. We serve Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and more.

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