Our staff is here to help: Monday-Sunday 9am to 6pm (800)-800-3332

Tag: disabled Vietnam vets

Blue Water Veterans Get Agent Orange Benefits

Blue Water Veterans get Agent Orange Benefits as of January 1, 2020, when the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 took effect.

What is Agent Orange?

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used herbicides such as Agent Orange to clear trees and plants.  The military sprayed Agent Orange by aircraft, trucks, and hand-sprayers.  As a result, the spraying contaminated the food crops and water sources of both enemy combatants and nearby civilians.  Unfortunately, our own troops have suffered the most of the collateral damage from Agent Orange use.

Dioxin

One of the most toxic byproducts of Agent Orange is called dioxin, which is a highly-persistent chemical compound that lasts for many years in the environment.  Most human exposure is through food because dioxin accumulates in the fatty tissue of fish, birds and other animals.  However, you can also be exposed through airborne transmission.

 

Many health problems related to Agent Orange do not arise until years after service.  The longer it takes a veteran to file an Agent Orange claim, the more likely VA is to deny it.  If you are planning to file a claim many years after exposure, then you should hire an experienced representative to assist you.

Blue Water Veterans previously did not get Agent Orange presumption

For over 2 decades, the Agent Orange 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 served on Navy ships offshore during the same period. 

Which Navy ships were likely exposed to Agent Orange?

VA compiled a list of Navy and Coast Guard ships that were probably exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War era.  The list contains the following 5 categories:

  1. operating primarily or exclusively on Vietnam’s inland waterways,
  2. operating temporarily on Vietnam’s inland waterways,
  3. docked to shore or pier in Vietnam,
  4. operating on Vietnam’s close coastal waters for extended periods with evidence that crew members went ashore, and
  5. operating on Vietnam’s close coastal waters for extended periods with evidence that smaller craft from the ship regularly delivered supplies or troops ashore.

Did You Get Sick Due to Agent Orange Exposure?

In most circumstances, this is a medical question for your doctor.  However, if you served in Vietnam or 12 miles offshore between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and you have any of the 14 disabilities, VA will concede a relationship to Agent Orange exposure:

  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.

What if I Served in Vietnam But I Never Left the Ship?

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 took effect, January 1, 2020.  This law made it easier for the Blue Water Navy veterans and their families to get disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure.  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 Agent Orange exposure?

What if I Never Served in Vietnam?

Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam were used, tested, and stored around the world, including some military bases in the United States.  If you served at the following locations in the respective time frames, then you were likely exposed to Agent Orange:

  • Korean Demilitarized Zone between April 1 1968 and August 31, 1971, and
  • Perimeters of U.S. military bases in Thailand between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.

What if VA Denied My Claim?

Keep fighting!  Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans are finally eligible for the same presumptions as those who served inland.  The VA’s previous denial does not mean that you don’t deserve benefits. The experts at Disability Help Group can guide you through the process. 

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

You may be entitled to significant compensation.

Additional Articles You May Find Helpful

Additional Information

Can I get VA 100% for Blue Water Exposure?

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

Additional Articles You May Find Helpful

Additional Information

FAQs

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.

Should I hire an advocate?

Most importantly, you should hire a disability expert that has argued hundreds of VA Compensation claims.

What is a veterans disability advocate?

A veterans disability advocate represents you before the VA. Hire a representative that has argued similar fact patterns to your case.

How to Win Your PTSD VA Disability Claim with a Nexus Letter

VA Nexus Letter for PTSD. VA will pay disability compensation to a veteran if he proves his disability is related to military service.  As part of the process, VA uses disability nexus letters to figure out whether a disability was caused or aggravated during service.  If the answer is “No”, then VA will not pay for that disability.

Will You Need a VA Medical Nexus Letter for PTSD?

Not every VA claim needs a nexus letter because in some cases, the link to service is undeniable.  For example, if your service records include a diagnosed disability you still suffer from today, then VA would probably grant a claim for that disability without a nexus letter.  In claims for certain chronic conditions, VA will concede a relationship to service if there is a diagnosis within 1 year of discharge.

 

However, what if you don’t have a diagnosis until many years after service?  For example, Vietnam veterans with Agent Orange exposure usually don’t develop herbicide-related disabilities (such as diabetes mellitus type II) for several years.  The gap from discharge to diagnosis can be even greater with mental health disorders.  Many veterans respond to traumatic in-service events by trying to cope on their own.  Coping mechanisms include self-medication with drugs or alcohol, avoidance of medical treatment, and withdrawal from social situations.  When the symptoms get much worse and they finally seek mental health treatment, a doctor renders a diagnosis of PTSD.  To win this kind of claim, a strong disability nexus letter for PTSD is essential.

Who should Write Your VA Nexus Letter for PTSD?

Only a medical professional with the appropriate medical training should write a disability nexus letter.  In limited circumstances, non-doctors such as physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners can write them.  However, VA will find a disability nexus letter more persuasive if written by a doctor in the relevant specialty.  For mental health disorders such as PTSD, a psychologist or psychiatrist would be ideal.

 

From time to time, VA will ask affiliated doctors to write disability nexus letters.  However, most of those are not favorable to the veteran.  Give yourself the best chance to win by seeking an independent disability nexus letter.  If applicable, you should have your treating doctor write one.  That doctor is probably more knowledgeable about your condition than any of VA’s hired guns.

Requirements for a VA Nexus Letter for PTSD

VA will only accept a disability nexus letter if it meets certain requirements.  A strong disability nexus letter for PTSD must include:

  • A discussion of relevant medical history from service to the present day,
  • The likelihood that the PTSD was caused or aggravated during service, and
  • A reasoned explanation for the conclusion.

Medical History

The medical history from service to the present day is especially relevant to what caused PTSD.  Even the PTSD diagnosis happens years after service, the onset of the disability can be shown in service records.  Let’s say a veteran claims that racial harassment during service caused a persistent PTSD disability.  The service medical records don’t show treatment for PTSD.  However, the personnel records showed a drastic change in behavior 5 months prior to discharge.  His first 5 years of service included multiple commendations for performance.  In the last 5 months, he received multiple Article 15 punishments.  A good disability nexus letter would consider whether the sudden behavioral change marked the onset of PTSD.

How likely is PTSD related to service?

The burden is on the veteran to prove his claim.  However, the standard of proof is much lower than in a criminal case.  The doctor who writes the nexus letter does not have to be 100% sure of the link.  Because this is a veteran-friendly system, VA requires at least 50% certainty.  If your doctor finds there is at least a 50/50 chance that your PTSD is related to service, then that is enough to win.  In other words, a good disability nexus letter states that it is “at least as likely as not” that the disability is related to service.  A strong nexus letter would express “more likely than not” certainty.

 

A doctor is more likely to write a good disability nexus letter if PTSD clearly existed from service to the present day.  You can improve your odds by giving your doctor any of the following:

  • Your full service medical and personnel records,
  • Lay statements from friends and family who observed your behavior from service to the present day, or
  • Post-service medical and/or arrest records relevant to PTSD.

What is the doctor’s reasoning?

In a disability nexus letter for PTSD, 80% of the value comes from the doctor’s reasoning.  If the letter only contains data and conclusions, then it won’t help the case.  At a minimum, the reasoning must be clear, concise and supported by valid medical analysis.

 

For example, let’s say you are seeking a medical nexus letter for PTSD.  After reviewing your medical history, your psychologist agrees that “it is at least as likely as not that” your PTSD was incurred during your military service.  Her medical nexus letter should explain why the in-service symptoms and the post-service diagnosis matters.  It should also cite any medical literature that supports her opinion.  If there was any post-service trauma, she should explain how it only made the existing PTSD worse.

Related Articles and Blogs

Additional Resources

What is a VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD?

Posted on by Ken LaVan

What is a VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD? If you’re reading this, then you are probably familiar with the basics of a VA disability claim.  Before we discuss what a medical nexus letter is lets review the basics. To win a VA disability claim, the veteran must prove all required elements of that specific claim.  In general, VA will only grant your claim if you prove these 3 elements:

  1. Current diagnosis of a disability,
  2. In-service event, disease or injury, and
  3. Medical nexus between the first 2 elements.

A veteran’s doctor can provide a current diagnosis.  Either service records or witness statements can prove the in-service event.  The medical nexus requirement is often the most challenging element to prove.

What is a VA Disability Medical Nexus Letter for PTSD?

A good medical nexus letter can be the difference between winning your PTSD claim and losing it.  However, it is not enough for a doctor to state that the current diagnosis is related to the in-service event.  Unless the letter meets certain requirements, VA will not accept it as evidence.  A strong medical nexus letter should:

  • Be written by a qualified medical professional,
  • Be based on the veteran’s medical history both during and after service,
  • Include an opinion on the likelihood that the veteran’s disability was caused or aggravated by the in-service event, and
  • Include an explanation for the opinion that is easy to understand.

VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD: Qualified medical professional

As the term suggests, only a medical professional can provide a medical nexus letter.   This means that a veteran should only seek this from someone with the appropriate medical training.  In limited circumstances, non-doctors such as physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners can write medical nexus letters.  However, keep in mind that VA may get a competing nexus letter from someone more qualified than a nurse practitioner.

 

In all cases, a veteran should seek the most competent medical professional for this important task.  For example, if you need a medical nexus letter for PTSD, then you should probably consult a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.  A PTSD nexus letter from an orthopedist probably would not help your case.  Choose your author wisely, and make sure the letter includes his/her qualifications and contact information.

VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD: Medical history provides context

When it comes to what caused a disability, context is everything.  If the medical professional doesn’t know the service and post-service medical history, then how can he tell what caused the disability?  This requirement helps VA avoid paying veterans for disabilities unrelated to service.  Let’s say a veteran is seeking a medical nexus letter for PTSD and PTSD.  He tells his doctor that the PTSD must have been related to racial discrimination he suffered in service, and the PTSD followed soon after.  However, his medical records show there was no PTSD diagnosis until he was involved in a fatal car accident 12 years after discharge.  If the doctor writes a medical nexus letter without this context, then VA would probably reject it outright.

VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD: What if the doctor is not 100% sure?

While the burden is on the veteran to prove his claim, the standard of proof is much lower than in criminal or civil cases.  A VA disability nexus letter for PTSD does not need to express 100% certainty.  It does not even need to be beyond a reasonable doubt.  If your doctor finds there is at least a 50/50 chance that your disability is related to service, then that is enough to win.  In other words, a good medical nexus letter states that it is “at least as likely as not” that the disability is related to service.  Of course, if your doctor believes it is more likely than not, then this only strengthens the nexus letter.  The more context a veteran provides, the more certain a doctor can be of the relationship to service.

VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD: How did you get to your conclusion?

Most of the value of a medical nexus letter comes from its reasoning.  If it only contains data and conclusions, then VA will reject it.  A nexus letter that merely lists the evidence reviewed without explaining why it led to the conclusion has no value.  At a minimum, the explanation must allow VA to conclude that the doctor applied valid medical analysis to the facts pf the case.

Example of a VA Disability Nexus Letter for PTSD

Let’s say you are seeking a medical nexus letter for PTSD.  For the past 5 years, you’ve seen a psychiatrist for regular treatment.  After the doctor agrees to help, you give him full access to your military and civilian medical records.  During his review, the doctor notes that you had in-service medical treatment for symptoms of PTSD.  The doctor also notes that the PTSD was diagnosed less than 2 years after service.  After reviewing medical literature, the doctor agrees that “it is at least as likely as not that” your PTSD is related to your military service.  His medical nexus letter should explain why the in-service symptoms and the post-service diagnosis matters.  It should also cite any medical literature that supports his opinion.  This would be a very strong medical nexus letter for PTSD.

Free Case Review

It is important to hire an experienced advocate that will help you through the VA disability process. Call now, or complete our contact form and we will answer your questions immediately.

Related Articles and Blogs

Additional Resources

New Disabling Condition Linked to Agent Orange Exposure in Vietnam Veterans

It is presumed that nearly all veterans who served during the Vietnam War and were actively stationed in combat areas were exposed to Agent Orange at some point. The herbicide was so widely used that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) designated “Agent Orange presumptive diseases” associated with exposure to the defoliant chemical.

As more Vietnam veterans file veterans disability claims and join the Agent Orange Registry, VA doctors and research teams are learning more about the long-term effects of the deadly herbicide. Recently, researchers found an increased risk for a precursor to multiple myeloma, which is already among the conditions linked to the herbicide.

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a precursor disease to multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that attacks the plasma cells in bone marrow. A study reviewing 958 blood samples of U.S. Air Force personnel found that the personnel involved in Operation Ranch Hand were twice as likely to have developed MGUS than personnel not involved in the aerial spraying missions.

Of the 479 Operation Ranch Hand veterans, the prevalence of MGUS was 7.1 percent, compared to 3.1 percent in the veterans who did not participate in the operation. The cause of MGUS and multiple myeloma is still not largely understood. However, the findings of this and related studies involving farmers and agricultural workers has led researchers to suspect a link between pesticides and these conditions.

Disability Help Group Assists Vietnam Veterans Seeking Disability Benefits

The VA is still learning about new diseases and health conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. If you served during the Vietnam War in any capacity, there is a chance your disabling health conditions could be connected to Agent Orange exposure. Let The Disability Help Group review your military and medical records and help you file a veterans disability claim for benefits. Contact us at 1-(800)-800-3332.