The Push for Blue Water Vet AidThursday, February 7, 2019
You are a Navy Sailor sent to a foreign country on a multi-billion-dollar warship and your duty is to patrol the waters around a hostile country. The waters in which you are sailing are riddled with toxic chemicals, originally used on land, but now making their way to your ship via the ocean’s waterways. Your concern in the moment is to protect yourself, your fellow Sailors, and your country, not thinking once that the water being turned into your drinking and shower water would be the cause of several incurable diseases several decades later. Unfortunately, today, despite your steadfast devotion and service to our country, the VA is denying healthcare costs to aide in those diseases directly linked to those toxic chemicals (known as “Agent Orange”) utilized during wartime, all over a minor technicality.
The technicality was that many sailors, also known as Blue Water Veterans, never stepped foot in Vietnam, but have been experiencing the long-term effects of the herbicide “Agent Orange”. The VA claims that because these veterans didn’t have direct exposure to “Agent Orange”, like those serving on land, they do not have enough evidence that this is the cause of their illnesses.
“Agent Orange” was utilized during the Vietnam War as a defoliant to destroy crops and reduce cover for enemy forces. Utilized strictly on land, it eventually leached into rivers and waterways, eventually making its way to the ocean. These waterways brought it directly into Navy ship’s water distillation system, where it would affect thousands of veterans decades later.
Congress has recently pushed to have a decades-old ruling reversed, in which Brown Water Soldiers could seek medical coverage for “Agent Orange” related conditions, and has also sought to include Blue Water Vets. Unfortunately, this is being met by the resistance of the VA, who is claiming there is still no nexus between “Agent Orange” and the illnesses that Blue Water Vets are suffering from. This has become quite troublesome for the 90,000 Blue Water Vets who are trying to receive medical care and compensation for their illnesses. To date, there are currently 14 illnesses, including several types of cancer, that are linked to exposure of “Agent Orange”.
Since the process to begin receiving compensation and care can be daunting, Janet Santeramo, Esq. and Junior Partner at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco, and Rosasco advises that generally “it is better to be pro-active than re-active when considering filing for Veteran’s Compensation benefits. One way to do that is to file a Notice of Intent to file (form VA 21-0966) and obtain a copy of your complete service record book, which includes all your medical records while in service by filing VA standard form 180 (SF 180). Filing the Notice of Intent will preserve your earliest effective date and by obtaining you records, you will start the process of building your claim.” Additionally, this will allow the family to continue the claim even well after the veteran has passed.
If you or a loved one are a Blue Water Vet and would like to file a Notice of Intent, please contact the experienced lawyers at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco, and Rosasco at 855-280-7586 for a free, no-obligation consultation.