The Blue Water Navy Act of 2019, which was signed into law in June, is set to go into effect January 1, 2020. The law states that veterans, who served aboard ships off the coast of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to the toxic defoliant known as Agent Orange and are eligible for disability benefits.
Lawmakers are skeptical that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be ready to start processing Agent Orange disability claims. One of the key concerns is logistics, specifically pertaining to a ‘ship locator tool’ that the VA is creating to help claims processors verify ship logs to prove veterans were in certain locations. If further verification is required, it could be impossible for veterans to prove when and where they were deployed.
Other lawmakers are concerned that the VA is not including submarines or other submersibles that were patrolling the same ‘blue waters’, despite evidence showing sailors aboard these vessels would have been susceptible to the same toxic exposures.
Beyond the verification process and vessel types, lawmakers are also concerned about the myriad of typically confusing forms that must filled out in order to submit a claim for veterans disability benefits. In some instances, a veteran could be denied or have their claims process prolonged, if the wrong form is submitted. Adding to the potential confusion is that veterans may receive conflicting answers on which forms are needed.
The VA says its workers still aren’t trained to process blue water claims, despite the tight timeline.
It is estimated that 90,000 veterans could be eligible for the new ‘Blue Water’ presumptive status, which could equate to thousands of dollars a month in veterans disability benefits per claimant. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has sent out 77,000 letters to veterans, whose past service connected Agent Orange exposure disability claims were denied. These veterans will have to refile next year, if they want their cases to be reconsidered.
The VBA will also prioritize cases of veterans more than 85 years old, and those facing terminal illnesses or financial hardship.
The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.
Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/10/30/will-va-be-ready-to-process-new-blue-water-vietnam-veterans-benefits-next-year/