For decades, so-called “Blue Water” Navy Veterans who served in the waters around Vietnam have had difficulty getting their disability claims recognized by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). However, due to a bill signed into law last June, certain veterans, including Blue Water Navy Veterans, will be able to more easily apply for disability benefits. This includes any Navy veteran who served within 12 nautical miles offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 6, 1962, and May 7, 1975, as well as veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Jan. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971.
The primary difficulty these Veterans have faced in obtaining disability benefits surrounds the use of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used by the United States military during the Vietnam War. Although exposure to Agent Orange has long been linked to various diseases, including birth defects in those exposed in utero, the United States government has been unwilling to extend the presumption that certain conditions experienced by disabled veterans who served during Vietnam might be linked to Agent Orange exposure. This meant each disabled veteran would need to present their own evidence linking their condition to their military service if they wanted disability benefits.
With the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, however, that is set to change. The bill creates the presumption that individuals who suffer from any of fourteen conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure, and who served during one of the times and places listed above, will receive the presumption that their condition is related to their military service. As a result, the process of applying for disability benefits will be streamlined for them, speeding up the process and preventing them from needing to provide evidence of their own disability. A full list of the conditions recognized by the government as being related to Agent Orange exposure can be found here.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers may be able to assist you or a loved one in obtaining VA disability benefits. Call our office at (800) 395 -7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.