The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that veterans who served in the offshore waters of The Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War (the period between Jan. 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975), may be eligible for VA disability benefits to be paid retroactively based on the veteran’s presumption of exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. In addition, certain veterans who served in Korea and Thailand during the Vietnam War also may have been exposed to Agent Orange and also may be eligible for retroactive benefits.
The VA announced that it will readjudicate claims that were previously denied as part of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law on June 25, 2019. The new guidance comes as a result of the implementation of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California’s decision in the class-action law suit, Nehmer vs. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to readjudicate previously denied claims.
On Nov. 5, 2020, the court ruled in favor of thousands of veterans and their survivors to enforce the 29-year-old class action and ordered the VA to automatically readjudicate benefits claims that the court found had been wrongly denied. The court also ordered the VA to pay compensation retroactively if the veteran served in the offshore waters of Vietnam.
With the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, the U.S. Congress provided that veterans who served offshore either in the U.S. military, Navy or air service during the Vietnam War are presumed to have been exposed to an herbicide agent, such as Agent Orange, during their service. Agent Orange was used mainly during the Vietnam War as a tactical herbicide to clear out jungle area vegetation for military operations. Certain cancers and other health issues in veterans have been associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans who meet the qualifications and their surviving spouses or children may be eligible for disability benefits if they have or had related health issues.
To be eligible for benefits, the veteran or survivor must have submitted a prior claim for disability compensation on or after Sept. 25, 1985, and before Jan. 1, 2020, for a disease that was caused by Agent Orange and was denied by reason of the claim not establishing that the disease was incurred or aggravated by the service of the veteran. The VA will readjudicate claims that fit the parameters above. Vietnam veterans or their survivors can submit a new claim for this exposure now as well.
To ensure you receive the benefits that you may have coming to you, please visit the VA’s website. For more information about disability benefits and how to file a new claim, go to https://www.va.gov/disability/ or call the VA Benefits Hotline toll free at (800) 827-1000.