They call themselves “Blue Water” veterans; they are members of the Navy who served on large ships during Vietnam. While they were overseas and offshore, they typically never set foot in Vietnam itself or toured its inland waterways. Because of this small distinction, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decided that Blue Water Veterans should not be included in the easy approval process granted to other Vietnam vets who served overseas and who were affected by Agent Orange exposure.
What This Means for Blue Water Vets
A Blue Water Veteran who can establish that he set foot in Vietnam or that he was on inland waters for any amount of time between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, is automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. However, according to the VA, Blue Water Veterans who were never on Vietnamese soil and who were never aboard smaller boats in Vietnam’s inland waterways, “must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during military service to receive disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.” These claims are then decided on a case-by-case basis.
The one exception to this general rule is for Blue Water Veterans who develop non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The VA specifically “recognizes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as related to service in Vietnam or the waters offshore of Vietnam during the Vietnam Era.”
The government, including the Health and Medical Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, has been unable to conclude whether Blue Water Veterans were actually exposed to Agent Orange. However, that finding and the VA’s policy on Blue Water Veterans should not discourage you from learning more about your rights.
You still have the right to file a veterans’ disability claim if you can prove that your diabetes, heart disease, or other health issues are associated with Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. Speak with an experienced veterans’ disability benefits attorney today about getting compensation and support for your conditions. Simply start a live chat with us or call us directly at 800-800-6353.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.