Officials drop appeal awarding benefits to ‘blue water’ Navy veterans

In a filing with the Supreme Court Tuesday, the Department of Justice dropped its appeal of a federal court decision awarding disability benefits to tens of thousands of veterans who claim their illnesses are related to the exposure of toxic chemicals while serving.

According to an article published by MilitaryTimes.com, the “Congressional Budget Office officials had estimated that awarding the benefits to the blue water veterans could total about $1.1 billion over 10 years, but VA officials in the past have estimated the total could rise to more than $5.5 billion. Justice lawyers had twice asked for deadline extensions to file an appeal, even as VA officials publicly said they believed the lower court decision should stand. Congressional leaders and outside advocates had also argued against an appeal.”

The bigger issue at hand is a previous VA decision to treat sailors’ disability benefit claims differently from other troops who served in Vietnam. Currently, ‘blue water’ veterans can receive medical care for their illnesses through VA however, they must first prove that their illnesses are directly connected to toxic exposure while on duty.

On the other hand, Vietnam veterans are automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals known to cause serious illnesses and ailments.

So while a veteran who served on the shoreline could receive disability payouts after contracting Parkinson’s Disease or prostate cancer, another vet who served on a ship a few miles away would have to provide evidence of direct contact with hazardous chemicals. Advocates have long argued that it is almost impossible to do this given how much time has passed.

John Wells, a retired Navy commander and the executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, said the Department of Justice decision means their fight is effectively over.

To learn more about this good news for ‘blue water” navy veterans, click HERE.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability