Late Breaking News
More Ships Added to List for Disability Due to Possible Agent Orange Exposures
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON - VA has updated its list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships that can be used by Vietnam-era veterans to determine if they qualify for presumption of Agent Orange exposure. That enables the veterans to seek VA disability compensation for associated diseases.
The evolving list now includes 244 ships, including some open-sea vessels.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established that Vietnam veterans with any of the diseases linked to Agent Orange were presumed to have been exposed if they served in specific areas during service and so could claim disability.
The issue of whether “Blue Water” veterans, those who served on open ships off the shore of Vietnam, as opposed to rivers and inland streams within the country, should be eligible remains controversial, however.
An IoM report in May 2011 concluded that “it could not state with certainty that exposures to Blue Water Navy personnel, taken as a group, were qualitatively different from their Brown Water Navy and ground troop counterparts. Indeed, the paucity of scientific data makes it impossible to determine whether or not Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange–associated TCDD during the Vietnam War.”
Because VA only compensates veterans who served on the ground or on inland waterways in Vietnam for diseases associated with Agent Orange, Blue Water veterans have not been automatically eligible for related disability benefits.
In its policy, the VA stipulates that, to claim service-connection for diseases related to Agent Orange Exposure, “that Blue Water Veterans must have actually stepped foot on the land of Vietnam or served on its inland waterways anytime between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.” Veterans are urged to check VA's list of ships and must have evidence confirmed through their military records to show that they were aboard one of the listed ships.
Blue Water veterans who did not set foot in Vietnam or serve aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between those dates “must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during military service in order to receive disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. These claims are decided on a case-by-case basis,” the VA website states.
The exception is Blue Water veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma “who may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in Vietnam,” according to VA.