Did you know? Beginning January 1 of this year, an estimated 500,000 additional Veterans qualified for VA Disability Benefits and medical coverage. You could be one of them. On June 25, 2019, Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. This law went into effect January 1, making an estimated additional half-million Veterans now eligible for VA disability benefits. In addition to disability benefits, the Blue Water Act also expands the VA Home Loans program and adds coverages to other Veterans groups as well. However, its primary purpose was to extend specific VA disability benefits and medical coverage to Vietnam Veterans.
What is the Blue Water Act?
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 extends coverage to Veterans of the Vietnam War who served between the dates of January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. While many Veterans of this time period are already covered, the Blue Water Act specifically extends presumptive exposure coverage to Veterans of any military branch (Army, Navy, or Air Force) who served as far as 12 nautical miles offshore. Any Veteran who served in these areas are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides, such as Agent Orange.
The presumption of exposure is important because in order for VA benefits to be awarded, a Veteran must prove their condition is service related. This presumptive exposure grants Veterans the assumption that certain medical conditions were caused or worsened by that exposure. This assumption can only be overcome if there is affirmative evidence to show the Veteran was not exposed. Thus, it shifts the burden of proving service related sickness, disease, or injury from the Veteran to the government if they wish to deny medical coverage or disability benefits.
But Wait. Are You Really Covered?
The question now is, what is considered “offshore” service? Oceans are all technically offshore and they cover over 70% of the planet, so this should be good enough, right? Unfortunately, it is not that easy. The Blue Water Act provides a table that references locations, by longitude and latitude coordinates, that identifies areas that are covered. However, using this table requires Veterans to produce very specific information to prove that they indeed served within the covered area.
This is information that may not be readily available to Veterans when initially considering or question coverage under the Blue Water Act. Luckily, the Act specifies that no location will be considered if it is more than 12 nautical miles off the shores of Vietnam or Cambodia. This makes for an easy rule of thumb for Veterans to get started when considering new coverage. While there may be further limitations to the covered areas, if you were 12 or less nautical miles from Vietnam or Cambodia there is a high likelihood that you would fall within the covered area of “offshore” service.
What Other Veteran Groups Are Covered?
The Blue Water Act also extends presumptive exposure to another group of Veterans from the same era. Any military personnel who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, are also provided presumptive exposure classification under the Blue Water Act. While Korean DMZ veterans are obviously not subject to the same location restrictions as the Vietnam Veterans above, both sets of Veterans are limited as to what diseases, sickness, or injuries are covered under the Blue Water Act.
What Conditions Are Covered?
Regardless of the branch or location of service, the Blue Water Act only covers certain diseases, sicknesses, or injuries. These conditions include, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, certain types of soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne or other acne diseases, Hodgkin’s disease, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, and type 2 diabetes. Thus, despite the expanded coverage, a Veteran must suffer from one or more Agent Orange or other herbicide related illnesses as recognized by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. For a list of diseases related to Agent Orange, please visit: Agent Orange Related Diseases.
We Can Help
The Ohio Valley has a long tradition of patriotism and serving our country. Our Veterans have done their duty and served us, now it’s our turn to serve them. At GKT, we have a dedicated attorney to help Veterans with their VA disability claims. Attorney Taylor Potts has obtained formal certification through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and is recognized as an accredited representative for Veterans, service members, dependents and survivors who are seeking VA disability benefits.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with VA disability benefits, contact our office today at (304) 845-9750. We provide a free consultation and there is no fee unless we win you your benefits. Home, evening, and weekend appointments are available.