VA to Begin Processing Blue Water Navy Disability Claims on Jan. 1, 2020Monday, December 16, 2019
A federal court ruling declined to lift a delay on Blue Water Navy disability claims imposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Claims processing is expected to begin January 1st, 2020. In total, the delay has affected over 400,000 veterans or surviving members who could be eligible.
Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant chemical that is used as part of the U.S. Military’s chemical warfare program. It was used from 1962 to 1975 during the Vietnam War. Veterans who served as far as 12 nautical miles from the shore of Vietnam, or who had service in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, are presumed to have been exposed. Agent Orange is believed to cause a multitude of illnesses including, but not limited to Prostate Cancer, Chronic B-cell Leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, and Multiple Myeloma.
After decades of trying to win benefits from the VA, thousands of Blue Water Veterans that were exposed are still waiting for a chance to receive benefits. Though the ruling did not immediately lift the delay on claims, it has a potentially positive impact on those affected. “Although the court did not lift the stay and found that Congress intended for the stay to apply, we still consider this a win,” Retired Navy Commander John Wells, director of litigation and chairman of the board of MVA, told Connecting Vets. “They have stated in no uncertain terms the stay cannot go beyond Jan. 1, 2020.”
Though processing is expected to start on January 1st of 2020, Veterans and their families do not have to wait to begin filing claims.
Information on claims and qualifications:
- Veterans potentially qualify if they served on a U.S. military vessel that operated in inland waterways of Vietnam or served on a vessel no more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia from Jan. 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975.
- Veterans 85 and older or those with life-threatening illnesses should have priority in claims processing.
- A veteran’s family can submit a claim on their behalf if the veteran died before Jan. 1, 2020.
- Veterans need to submit a VA Form 21-526EZ for initial compensation claims. For initial survivor claims, submit a VA Form 21P-534EZ.
- If a veteran or surviving family member’s claim was previously denied, it must be resubmitted under the new law. VA will provide back-pay to the date of the original claim only in certain cases. For previously denied claims, submit a VA Form 20-0995.
- Veterans or family members should be prepared to include any evidence of service in the offshore waters of Vietnam during the required timeframe, including names of vessels and dates of service.
- To qualify, the veteran must have or have had an illness VA considers caused by Agent Orange. A list of the diseases currently linked to Agent Orange and eligible for benefits can be found here.
- Veterans can qualify for health care, compensation or an Agent Orange registry health exam.
- Veterans will not have to show that their Agent Orange-connected illness started during or got worse because of military service, only that they may have been exposed because of where they served.
- If a veteran has an illness that is not on the VA’s list of Agent Orange-connected illnesses, they will have to provide scientific or medical evidence linking it to the toxic herbicide or show that the problem began during or got worse because of military service.
- Veterans who want more information from the VA can call 800-827-1000, go to their nearest VA regional benefit office or find more information on the VA’s website.
- To find out if the ship you or your veteran served on had contact with Agent Orange, visit the VA’s website.