As of Jan. 1, 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs has extended presumption of Agent Orange herbicide exposure benefits with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. That means it is now taking disability claims with the presumption that veterans were exposed to Agent Orange while offshore, not necessarily on the land or the inland waterways.
Here are some particulars: It covers 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam from Jan. 6, 1962, to May 7, 1975, and between Jan. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971, in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Additionally, verified service in Thailand at a certain time is covered.
There are 14 medical conditions that are covered for presumption of exposure to Agent Orange: AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemias, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, early-onset porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas.
Veterans who were there do not have to prove they were exposed — it is assumed they were. The VA has assembled tons of records. For example, see va.gov (put “blue water navy” in the search box) for lists of ships (updated October 2019). Scroll down the ships page to see various ways of herbicide exposure, such as supply trips, picking up Bob Hope, salvage operations, mapping surveys, mail runs, liberty leave ashore and more. The list is nearly 40 pages long.
To file an initial claim, you’ll need VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. If you filed and were turned down, use VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. Because of the new law, the VA will automatically review claims in the pipeline or under appeal. Payment is retroactive to when you first filed.
Go online to www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp for more information.