Blue Water Agent Orange Update – 2020

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What is Blue Water and Why Does it Matter?

Blue Water Agent Orange Update 2020. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used herbicides such as Agent Orange to clear trees and plants.  Unfortunately, herbicide exposure has caused a myriad of health problems to Vietnam veterans.  By passing the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the government conceded a relationship between herbicide exposure and 14 medical conditions.  However, VA interpreted the law to exclude Blue Water veterans of the Vietnam War.  Veterans advocates have sought an update ever since.

For over 20 years after the Agent Orange Act, VA split disabled Vietnam veterans into 2 distinct groups

  1. Those who either set foot in Vietnam or served on boats patrolling inland waterways (“Brown Water” veterans), and
  2. Those who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam (“Blue Water” veterans).

The Brown Water veterans enjoyed an easier path to VA disability benefits for certain disabilities.  Specifically, VA’s policy was to grant compensation to any Vietnam veteran who could prove the following:

  • Inland service in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and
  • A diagnosis of one or more of the 14 specific medical conditions.

Until recently, this easier path was not available to Blue Water veterans.  However, on January 29, 2019, this all changed for the better.

The Case that Changed Blue Water Agent Orange

Blue Water Agent Orange Update – 2020. Alfred Procopio Jr. served on the USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War era.  He developed at least 3 of the 14 presumptive conditions covered by the Agent Orange Act.  Naturally, he filed claims based on his belief they were caused by in-service exposure to herbicides.  VA repeatedly denied his claims because he was a Blue Water veteran.  But Mr. Procopio refused to give up.  He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).  After the CAVC rejected his appeal, he sought review in the Federal Circuit. 

Blue Water Agent Orange Update – 2020

On January 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that the Agent Orange Act of 1991 also applied to Blue Water veterans.  The Court found that the Act’s requirement for service in the Republic of Vietnam included both its landmass and its 12 nautical mile territorial sea.  In short, VA had been misinterpreting the law for over 20 years.  Because of VA’s mistake, it denied thousands of Agent Orange exposure claims involving Blue Water Vietnam veterans.  The Procopio case drastically changed the game for Blue Water veterans.  However, because court cases can be overturned, there was significant support in Congress to enact the Procopio holding into federal law.

Blue Water Federal Law Agent Orange Update 2020

On June 25, 2019, the President signed into law the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.  It took effect January 1, 2020.  This law made it easier for the Blue Water Navy veterans and their families to get disability benefits.  In addition, it gave the same presumptions to veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971.

Are You an Eligible Blue Water Vietnam Veteran?

If your answer to all of the following questions is “Yes”, then you are probably eligible for benefits under the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act:

  • Did you serve on a Navy ship offshore Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975?
  • While you were on board, did the ship come within 12 nautical miles of the Vietnamese coast?
  • Do you have one of the 14 disabilities VA presumes related to herbicide exposure?

Which Disabilities Are Presumed Service Connected by Blue Water Exposure?

VA presumes that the following conditions are related to exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange:

  1. Chronic B-cell leukemia,
  2. Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
  3. Multiple myeloma,
  4. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
  5. Prostate cancer,
  6. Respiratory cancers, including lung cancer,
  7. Soft tissue sarcomas,
  8. Amyloid light-chain (AL amyloidosis),
  9. Chloracne,
  10. Diabetes mellitus type 2,
  11. Ischemic heart disease,
  12. Parkinson’s disease,
  13. Peripheral neuropathy, and
  14. Porphyria cutanea tarda.

If you have any of the 14 presumptive disabilities, and you served on a ship that operated within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam, then you may be entitled to disability compensation. 

January 1, 2020, is When VA Starts Processing Blue Water Claims

What if VA Denied My Blue Water Claim Years Ago?

Many Blue Water Navy veterans gave up after VA kept denying their claims for lack of “boots-on-the-ground” service.  However, if VA approves a new claim pursuant to the new federal law, then VA must grant the rating effective the claim that was previously denied.  In a December 13, 2019 memorandum, VA’s Office of General Counsel confirmed that this will be VA’s interpretation for new Blue Water claims.  Blue Water Agent Orange Update – 2020

Retroactive period, Blue Water Agent Orange Update – 2020

Let’s say you filed your first Blue Water Navy claim for ischemic heart disease in 1991.  In 1992, VA then denied your claim because you did not serve on the landmass or internal waterways of Vietnam.  You then hire Disability Help Group to help file a new Blue Water Navy claim on January 17, 2020.  When VA grants your claim, it must be retroactive to the date of the 1991 claim.  This amounts to a 29-year retroactive period.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Has VA ever denied your Agent Orange exposure claim because you are a Blue Water Navy veteran?  You may be entitled to significant compensation.  Contact us now for a free consultation.

Additional Articles You May Find Helpful

Additional Information


What are the 14 Blue Water Presumed Diseases?

Chronic B-Cell Leukemia,
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,
Multiple Myeloma,
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,
Prostate Cancer,
Respiratory Cancers, including Lung Cancer,
Soft Tissue Sarcomas,
Amyloid Light-Chain (AL Amyloidosis),
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2,
Ischemic Heart Disease,
Parkinson’s Disease,
Peripheral Neuropathy, and
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda.

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