Blue Water Veterans – Don’t wait to file your claim for benefits even though the new law is stayed until Jan. 2020.

Blue Water = Agent Orange = Exposure on Navy or Coast Guard ships

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (BWNVVA) was signed into law on June 25, 2019 and is set to take effect on January 1, 2020. The BWNVVA extends the presumption of service connection for numerous conditions related to Agent Orange to nearly 100,000 Vietnam Veterans who served in the vicinity of Vietnam.

Who is affected by these changes?

If you served on a ship or vessel on the inland waterways or within the 12-mile nautical miles off the shore of Vietnam or Cambodia between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975 you are now presumed to be affected by Blue Water that was contaminated with Agent Orange. Agent Orange was an herbicide used to clear trees and plants during the Vietnam War.

Before the BWNVVA was enacted, Vietnam Veterans had to prove either boots on ground in Vietnam or that they served on board a ship within the waterways of Vietnam (commonly referred to as “Brown Water”). Please note that the VA is currently updating the list of ships associated with military service in Vietnam, but you can find a list from March 2019 at this link.

Coverage of claims under BWNVVA have been stayed

Unfortunately, implementation of the law has been stayed. That includes pending claims and those claims before the Board of Veterans Appeals.  The statute specifically gave the VA Sec. Wilkie the authority to stay implementation in allow the VA the time and resources to deal with the possible 85,000 claimants.   The stay has been issued until January 1, 2020.

What diseases are covered?

The VA lists these cancers they believe are caused by contact with Agent Orange:

  • Chronic B-cell leukemia: A type of cancer that affects your white blood cells (cells in your body’s immune system that help to fight off illnesses and infections)
  • Hodgkin’s disease: A type of cancer that causes your lymph nodes, liver, and spleen to get bigger and your red blood cells to decrease (called anemia)
  • Multiple myeloma: A type of cancer that affects your plasma cells (white blood cells made in your bone marrow that help to fight infection)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue (a part of your immune system that helps to fight infection and illness)
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers: (including lung cancer): Cancers of the organs involved in breathing (including the lungs, larynx, trachea, and bronchus)
  • Soft tissue sarcomas: (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma): Different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues

Other illnesses the VA believes are caused by contact with Agent Orange

  • AL amyloidosis: A rare illness that happens when an abnormal protein (called amyloid) builds up in your body’s tissues, nerves, or organs (like your heart, kidneys, or liver) and causes damage over time
  • Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it): A skin condition that happens soon after contact with chemicals and looks like acne often seen in teenagers. Under our rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of contact with herbicides.
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Ischemic heart disease: A type of heart disease that happens when your heart doesn’t get enough blood (and the oxygen the blood carries). It often causes chest pain or discomfort.
  • Parkinson’s disease: An illness of the nervous system (the network of nerves and fibers that send messages between your brain and spinal cord and other areas of your body) that affects your muscles and movement—and gets worse over time
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early onset: An illness of the nervous system that causes numbness, tingling, and weakness. Under VA rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of contact with herbicides.
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda: A rare illness that can make your liver stop working the way it should and can cause your skin to thin and blister when you’re out in the sun. Under the VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of contact with herbicides.

If you have an illness you believe is caused by contact with Agent Orange—and you don’t see it listed above, you can still file a claim for disability compensation. Veterans will need to:

  • Provide scientific and medical evidence that the condition is related to exposure to Agent Orange, or
  • Show that the problem started during or worsened because of your military service

Scientific proof may include an article from a medical journal or a published research study.

Don’t wait to file your claim!

If you served off the coast of Vietnam or Cambodia and have been diagnosed with any of the above conditions, we encourage you to file a claim with the VA immediately. Should the VA deny you, the experienced VA disability attorneys at Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group may be able to assist you in your appeal.

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