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Blue Water Vets Still Waiting For Benefits

9-22-2019 - The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act became law  on June 25, 2019, making Blue Water veterans eligible for disability benefits related to Agent Orange exposure. For decades, veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam argued that, like those who served on the ground and in inland waterways, they too suffered a high incidence of certain diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, and should therefore receive the same disability benefits. Diseases the V.A. presumes to be related to Agent Orange include Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery heart disease, respiratory cancers, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, peripheral neuropathy-early onset, AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, and soft tissue sarcomas.

Despite the initial celebration over passage of the law, Blue Water veterans have still not received benefits. To their dismay, the V.A. announced in July that it would not begin making decisions on their claims until January 1, 2020, citing more time was needed to set up claims-processing procedures. Veterans advocacy groups have decried the delay. John Rowan, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, has stated: "Today, the average age of a Vietnam veteran is 73 years old. Time of of the essence as a grant of benefits can mean obtaining vital, lifesaving health care. The saying, 'Delay, delay and hope they die' is the unfortunat reality for veterans and families that have been and continue to suffer from the lethal effects of Agent Orange."

In the meantime, veterans who think they may qualify for Agent Orange-related benefits may take the first step by requesting an Agent Orange medical exam. Find out more about getting the exam here.

The new law covers (1) veterans who served within 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975; (2) veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971; and (3) Children with spina bifida who were born to veterans who served in Thailand between January 1962 and May 1975. These individuals need not prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange to qualify for benefits related to these ailments. Veterans and their survivors could be entitled to thousands of dollars annually in benefits.

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