Can I get VA 100% for Blue Water Exposure?

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Can I get VA 100% for Blue Water Exposure? Yes. Thanks to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 and the Agent Orange Act of 1991, certain diseases are presumed to be related to in-service exposure to herbicides (including Agent Orange).

Generally, a veteran must prove 3 elements for service connection

Before VA will assign a rating for a disability, a veteran must first prove the disability is related to service.  In general, VA will grant disability compensation if the following elements are met:

  1. current diagnosis,
  2. in-service event, disease or injury, and
  3. medical nexus between the first 2 elements.

Special rule, Agent Orange Act of 1991

Instead of proving the 3 elements listed above, a veteran only needs to prove:

  1. Inland service in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and
  2. A diagnosis of one or more of the 14 presumptive conditions.

Limitation of Agent Orange Act of 1991

For over 2 decades, this presumption extended only to veterans who either set foot in Vietnam or served on boats patrolling inland waterways (also known as “Brown Water”).  This excluded thousands of veterans who otherwise would have received VA 100% due to blue water exposure while serving on Navy ships offshore during the same period.

Major win for veterans, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

Everything changed on January 1, 2020, when the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 took effect. As a result, VA extended Agent Orange presumptions to veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam, permitting veterans to get VA 100% for Blue Water Exposure.

What does the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Mean?

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act requires VA to treat your Vietnam Agent Orange claims as if you served “boots-on-the-ground”.  If you have any of the 14 presumptive disabilities, and you served on a blue water ship that operated within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam, then you may be entitled to VA 100%. 

Presumed Disabilities Caused By Blue Water Exposure

VA presumes that the following conditions are related to blue water 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.

Which Presumptive Disabilities Can Be Rated VA 100% Due to Blue Water Exposure?

Below is the list of presumptive disabilities that can be rated VA 100% for Blue Water Exposure. Firstly, the criteria tells VA which ratings it may assign depending on how severe the symptoms are.  Secondly, the Schedule tells VA the maximum ratings for each disability.  Thirdly, VA may only assign a 100% rating for 10 of the 14 presumptive disabilities.   

Chronic B-cell Leukemia

VA will assign a 100% rating while the leukemia is active or during a treatment phase.  This rating continues for six months after the last treatment.  When the six-month period expires, VA will rate it as either anemia or aplastic anemia, whichever would result in the greater benefit.  Under DC 7700 for anemia, VA will grant a 100% rating for the following symptoms:

  • Hemoglobin level at 5gm/100ml or less, with findings such as high output congestive failure or dyspnea at rest.

Under DC 7716 for aplastic anemia, a 100% rating is warranted if it:

  • Requires bone marrow transplant,
  • Requires transfusion of platelets or red cells at least once every six weeks, or
  • Infections recurring at least once every six weeks.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Respiratory Cancers (including Lung Cancer), Soft Tissues Sarcomas

VA rates these Blue Water presumptive cancers identically.  In short, VA will grant a 100% rating for any one of these cancers while it is active or during a treatment phase.  This rating continues for six months after the last treatment.  Thereafter, VA will schedule an examination to assess the appropriate rating.If the disease does not become active again, VA will rate it based on the residuals.

Amyloid Light-Chain (AL Amyloidosis)

AL Amyloidosis is a rare disease that occurs when an abnormal protein builds up in organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and spleen.  There is no cure to AL Amyloidosis, which subsequently can lead to life-threatening organ failure.  VA will assign a 100% rating for this disability regardless of the current symptoms.

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Depending on the symptoms, VA may assign either 10%, 20%, 40%, 60%, or 100% for diabetes mellitus type 2.  As a result, VA will grant a 100% rating for Blue Water Navy veterans if they require:

  • More than one daily injection of insulin,
  • A restricted diet,
  • Regulation of activities (avoidance of strenuous activities),
  • Either 3 hospitalizations per year OR weekly visits to diabetic care provider due to episodes of ketoacidosis or hypoglycemic reactions, and
  • Treatment for progressive complications such as loss of weight or strength.

Ischemic Heart Disease

VA will assign a 100% rating if any of these requirements are met:

  • Chronic congestive heart failure;
  • workload of 3 METs or less results in dyspnea, fatigue, angina, dizziness, or syncope; or
  • left ventricular dysfunction with an ejection fraction of less than 30%.

Examples of disabilities not eligible for 100% Rating

There are four diseases you cannot get a VA 100% rating for Blue Water Exposure. For example, the maximum rating for chloracne is 30%.  Another example is peripheral neuropathy, which maxes out at 80%.   VA may grant no more than 60% for porphyria cutanea tarda.  And then there is the rating criteria for Parkinson’s disease.  It starts with a minimum of 30%, but VA may grant additional ratings if there are severe residuals such as difficulty swallowing, speech problems, and bladder control problems. 

Call Disability Help Group, 1-800-700-0652

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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),
Chloracne,
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2,
Ischemic Heart Disease,
Parkinson’s Disease,
Peripheral Neuropathy, and
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda.

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