Lawsuit filed over delaying benefits for “Blue Water” Navy vets

This week, a lawsuit was filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie over his decision to suspend claims processing for tens of thousands of “Blue Water” Navy veterans until 2020.

The lawsuit was filed by Military Veterans Advocacy and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association in the U.S. Court of Appeals and argues that Wilkie does not have the authority to make this important decision and stressed that the veterans can’t afford to wait for benefits, saying that “These veterans are dying at a high rate every single day,”.

Blue Water Navy veterans have argued for years to prove their exposure to toxic chemical herbicide Agent Orange. Because of a federal court case and a new law passed by Congress, they finally became qualified for VA disability compensation.

According to an article published by Stars and Stripes, “Lawmakers and veterans groups celebrated last month when President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which grants government benefits to thousands of Vietnam War veterans who were previously ineligible. Blue Water Navy veterans cinched another victory when the Department of Justice decided not to appeal a federal court ruling that said they should be extended disability compensation and other benefits from the VA. The two things coalesced in June, 50 years after the Vietnam War and at least a decade since the first Blue Water Navy veterans began pushing the VA and Congress for recognition. Now, they’ll have to wait a while longer.”

Wilkie originally made his announcement to delay benefits for Blue Water veterans on July 5 – citing a provision in the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 that says “the secretary can enforce a stay on a claim until the law goes into effect Jan. 1.” Wilkie said in an official statement that the VA needed more time to “…ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water veteran community and minimize the impact on all veterans filing for disability compensation,”.

Advocates argued that because the federal court decided in June that Blue Water Navy veterans were eligible for benefits, the VA should process those claims now.

Disabled American Veterans announced last week that they would be working with lawmakers and other veterans groups to lift Wilkie’s stay on the claims. The organization encouraged Blue Water Navy veterans to file claims now, so they could receive benefits as soon as possible.

To learn more about this important news affecting “Blue Water” Navy veterans, click HERE.