In a recent article published in the St. Petersburg Bar Association magazine, Paraclete, attorney John V. Tucker discusses a new law called Public Law 116-23. This law is also known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. The law extends Agent Orange compensation, or service-connection presumptions, to veterans who served off the coast of Cambodia and Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The Burden to Prove Agent Orange Exposure
Since the 1980s, the burden to prove a service-connected disability due to Agent Orange exposure has become easier for veterans who served on Vietnamese soil or on small vessels that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam. A veteran seeking disability benefits within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system is no longer burdened to prove that they have a current condition and that their medical diagnosis occurred as a result of their military service. Instead, the VA evaluates these claims based on a list of conditions that are presumed to be caused or related to Agent Orange exposure.
If you served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975, the VA presumes that there are certain conditions you may develop due to Agent Orange exposure. Currently, the VA presumes there are 14 diseases and conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure. These presumptions are considered service-connected disabilities. These diseases and conditions include:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma).
- Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy
- Chloracne (or Similar Acneiform Disease)
Understanding the New Law for Agent Orange Compensation
Congress signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into on June 25, 2019. This law lifts the burden of proving direct exposure to Agent Orange for veterans who served aboard larger vessels that operated in the deeper waters off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia (the “Blue Water Navy”). Effective January 1, 2020, these so-called “Blue Water” veterans can seek service-connected benefits for Agent Orange exposure under this law.
Before the new law went into effect, veterans who served off the coast during the Vietnam War could not benefit from the Agent Orange presumptions. They were unable to file an Agent Orange claim for VA disability benefits unless they had direct proof of exposure. Now, Blue Water Navy vets can benefit from the presumption that they were exposed to Agent Orange without direct proof.
To be eligible to receive compensation from the VA, the law mandates that Navy veterans must have served:
- Between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Aboard vessels operating within 12 nautical miles of the territorial waters of Cambodia and Vietnam.
To accurately identify these 12 nautical miles, the act provides specific coordinates off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia and geographic names.
If you are eligible for Agent Orange compensation based on the criteria above, and you have one of the 14 conditions listed within 38 C.F.R. section 3.306(e), your condition may be considered a service-connected condition related to Agent Orange exposure.
Seeking Compensation for Agent Orange Exposure
To successfully claim benefits, you will need to be listed on the VA’s list or provide evidence such as:
- Form DD-214
- Witness statements from sailors who served with you
- Ship logs documenting where vessels sailed
- Other military documents
If you have filed for a service-connected disability caused by Agent Orange and your claim was denied, we urge you to speak to a VA disability lawyer about your options. An experienced attorney will be able to work with you to gather the evidence you need to build your case and appeal your claim.
Denied VA Disability Benefits? Contact Our VA Disability Lawyers
At Tucker Law Group, our VA disability lawyers can help you fight for the benefits you deserve. If your Agent Orange claim was denied, contact our firm today. We know you need help after a VA disability claim denial, which is why our firm will work aggressively for you from the start.
Call us today at (866) 233-5044 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your claim denial. Our VA disability lawyers have the resources and expertise to fight for veterans across the country. We will help you fight for your Agent Orange compensation.