Advocates fight to speed up ‘blue water’ Navy veterans benefits

Earlier this year, law legislation awarding presumptive benefits to “blue water” veterans was finalized, with more than 90,000 veterans eligible for disability benefits under this law. However, in June of this year, Veterans Affairs officials announced a six-month-long delay in processing “blue water” Vietnam benefits cases.

According to an article published by Military Times, “VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced plans to halt processing of those claims until January 2020 to allow his department time to set up new computer systems for handling the cases to ensure the system isn’t overwhelmed by a flood of new claims. He has noted on several occasions that the law as drafted allowed for the processing delays. Advocates note that the delay was not required, however. They note that some cases were processed earlier this summer before the stay was announced, and insist that more could be fast-tracked if VA would drop its stubborn new policy.”

Various lawmakers continue to ask the VA for more information on the benefits delivery timeline but are unable to receive any definitive answers. Advocates are also continuing to press the VA to move ahead by adding several new illnesses to the list of presumptive benefits cases linked to Agent Orange. Having the presumptive status would allow veterans to bypass a lengthy documentation and paperwork process which would help speed up the claims filing process.

The article by Military Times continued by saying that “VA officials sent a letter to veterans groups updating them on the work thus far to prepare their staff for the new cases, but not offering any changes in the proposed timeline for starting to process them. Several advocates worry that even if the department begins taking cases starting in January, it could be another long wait before veterans see any payouts since processing can often take months.”

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