‘Blue water’ veterans’ claims delayed again

Veterans Affairs officials recently announced that they will not start to process “blue water” Vietnam veterans claims until 2020. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie stated that the delay is intentional and ensures that the proper resources are allocated to meet the needs of the “Blue water” veterans community. However, some advocates are saying that the move is another disappointing delay for veterans who have already waited decades for the benefits they believe they deserve.

According to an article published by the Military Times, “At issue is a new law signed by President Donald Trump last month (and passed without objection by the House and Senate) which awarded presumptive benefits status to Navy veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam during the war there five decades ago. Trump touted the bill in a call with veterans last month as a major victory for the veterans community and the country. Under previous VA rules, service members who were stationed on the ground or on ships near the coast were presumed to have had exposure to Agent Orange and other carcinogenic herbicides and given simplified filing status for their disability claims later in life. But because of scientific disputes over the level of exposure to those toxic chemicals in the seas around Vietnam, the so-called “blue water” veterans were not granted the same preferential status by VA, and were required to provide specific proof that their illnesses later in life were related to their military service. Many veterans said that created an impossible standard since little water monitoring was done at the time. The different standards meant that Vietnam veterans with identical illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure — ailments like prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and serious respiratory illnesses — could receive starkly different disability benefits.”

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled against the VA stating that the department had misinterpreted the statute incorrectly and should start granting presumptive benefits status to all eligible “blue water” veterans. As a response, lawmakers officially created legislation that also awarded certain presumptive benefits to troops who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and to children of herbicide-exposed Thailand veterans born with spina bifida.

However, it was found that the legislation sill contained ambiguous language allowing the VA to further delay payouts until next January, even though some officials have begun processing in response to the court decision. According to the article “House and Senate officials said they are reviewing the VA decision last week to ensure the move isn’t designed to delay payouts unnecessarily. The VA has set up an information web site for veterans and family members to explain the changes and provide information on how to apply.

For more information on this important news affecting ‘Blue water’ veterans, click here.