Final ruling delayed on ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans benefits

This week the Supreme Court granted a 30-day extension to Department of Justice officials regarding the appeal of a January court ruling which extended presumptive benefits to tens of thousands of Navy veterans.

According to an article published by MilitaryTimes.com, “advocates say they are not concerned by the move, calling it a typical legal maneuver and not a serious threat to getting benefits to the group of so-called “blue water” veterans.

In their court request, lawyers for the Department of Justice indicated that they intend to fight the decision, “but needed more time to research the potential impact of the ruling on other pending court cases.”

John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director Military-Veterans Advocacy, agreed with this notion saying, “It’s not a setback for us. Veterans Affairs Secretary (Robert) Wilkie has told us this was not initiated by his department.”

In January, a federal court ruled that insufficient reasoning has been used by VA officials to deny disability benefits to veterans who served in ships off the waters of Vietnam. Existing laws established that only those who served on ships on the ground close to shore were entitled to service-related benefits caused by chemicals like Agent Orange. In addition, they have been required to provide proof of chemical exposure which advocates say is unrealistic and almost impossible.

In a January court ruling, VA officials argued that extending presumptive benefits to an estimated 90,000 blue water veterans would cost as much as $5 billion over 10 years. However, this figure has been disputed by advocates and Wilkie.

To learn more about this court ruling and its delay, click here.