As of Jan. 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs began processing Agent Orange disability claims for Blue Water Navy veterans.
The American Legion-supported Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law June 25, affects Blue Water Navy veterans 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. According to a VA press release, these veterans can now apply for disability benefits if they have since developed one of 14 conditions that are presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides.
Click here for a list of diseases associated with Agent Orange.
Blue Water Navy veterans have waited nearly 50 years to receive disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. The American Legion passed Resolution No. 246 in 2016 that supported "legislation to amend title 38, United States Code, to presume exposure to Agent Orange for any military personnel who served during the Vietnam War on any vessel that came within 12 nautical miles of the coastlines of Vietnam."
The VA press release also announced that survivors can file claims for benefits based on a veteran's service if the veteran died from at least one of the 14 presumptive conditions associated with herbicides such as Agent Orange. The law also provides benefits for children born with spina bifida if their parent is or was a veteran with certain verified service in Thailand during a specific period.
Veterans who want to file an initial claim for an herbicide-related disability can use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. American Legion service officers also are available to assist with benefits claim and application process. Visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers to find an American Legion service officer near you.