Throughout American involvement in Southeast Asia from the early 1960s to 1975, the military relied upon herbicides to conduct defoliation campaigns. Erroneously thinking that service members stationed offshore would not sustain dangerous levels of toxic chemical exposure, the military jeopardized the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans.
Veterans and their children exposed to the toxic dioxins (TCDD) have since suffered from serious medical complications. For some time, veterans and their affected loved ones all suffered from these negative effects without equal recourse to VA disability benefits. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 was designed to address this state of affairs and expand access to benefits for qualifying service members, enabling them to acquire necessary financial compensation quickly and efficiently.
If your VA disability benefits Blue Water Navy claim was denied in the past, you may now be eligible to file an additional claim under the criteria established in the BWN Act.
New Eligibility Requirements for Veterans of Vietnam, Korean DMZ
Blue Water Navy veterans were once excluded from accessing VA disability benefits for presumptive conditions on account of the decision Haas v. Peake. Originally litigated in the VA’s U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), it became case law in 2008 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
When the Court reversed Haas in 2019, the Senate finally passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 with bipartisan support. The act (PL 116-23) introduced a standardized set of criteria for veteran claimants to access disability benefits through the VA.
BWN Act Service Location and Timeline
As of January 1, 2020, Blue Water Navy veterans who were stationed on vessels up to 12 nautical miles from the demarcation line of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 are eligible to seek streamlined disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. PL 116-23 does not apply to Brown Water Navy veterans, whose claims to presumptive conditions the VA has long recognized.
Although the United States did not employ toxic herbicides in Korea as frequently as in Vietnam, veterans are presumed to have been exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin while serving in the demilitarized zone. Consequently, the BWN Act expands benefits to veterans who were stationed in the Korean DMZ from September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971.
Presumptive Conditions in the Blue Water Navy Act
The Department of Veterans Affairs relies upon presumptions of service connection to streamline the resolution of select sets of disability benefits claims. By assuming service connections, the VA alleviates claimants of an otherwise strenuous burden of proof.
In the context of the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019, the VA now assumes service connection for:
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers
- Soft tissue sarcomas
- Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Ischemic heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
VA Establishes Working Relationship with NARA for Evidentiary Collection
Aside from providing the VA with medical records to prove the diagnosis of a presumptive condition, claimants must also satisfy the location and timeline requirements. Unfortunately, accessing ship logs can be arduous for veterans, which is why the VA has formed a working relationship with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The NARA-VA partnership enables the VA to acquire the logs and locations of vessels for veteran claimants. In contrast to other types of VA disability benefits claims, BWN Act filings will rely heavily on the VA for the collation of evidence. Although claimants still reserve the right to request that the VA access medical records for them, the Department will automatically rely on its novel Vessel Locator Tool to acquire critical maritime records for BWN claims.
Filing New VA Disability Benefits Claims Under BWN Act
Whenever Congress reforms existing VA procedures and requirements, it often expands benefits to those groups who were otherwise ineligible. In the aftermath of the ratification of the BWN Act, many veterans became eligible to access streamlined disability benefits from the VA.
Consequently, the VA strongly recommends that recently eligible claimants file new claims if an earlier disability benefits application was denied and summarily resolved. For those veterans or dependents whose claims are pending after an initial filing or appeal, the VA will automatically review the claim in lieu of the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019.
Reforms to VA Home Loan Program in Blue Water Navy Act
The second half of the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 modifies the VA Home Loan Program. In contrast to the first section, the Home Loan reformations apply to all veterans. The modifications to the VA’s program include:
- Suspension of down payments for guaranteed loans
- Reduction of funding fee for Reservists and National Guard borrowers
- Exemption of funding fee repayment for active Purple Heart recipients
- Removal of loan limit for Native American veterans on Federal Trust Land
Available VA Disability Benefits for Qualifying Claimants
The Veterans Benefits Administration handles the majority of applications for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Relying upon multiple sets of criteria, the VBA adjudicates veterans’ claims and assigns them a disability rating commensurate to the decreased earning potential caused by a service-connected injury or disability.
Disability benefits provide crucial financial assistance to claimants and their families and assume many forms, including:
- Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
- Specially Adapted Housing
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
- Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Why You Should Hire Dolman Law for Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
Veterans in pursuit of disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs often encounter long wait times and complex bureaucratic procedures. As of the final quarter of 2023, nearly 30% of the over one million pending disability benefits claims are backlogged.
Although claimants can seek the cost-free services of a local Veterans Service Officer (VSO), at Dolman Law Group, PA, we strongly advise claimants to seek the assistance of an experienced veterans disability claims lawyer. If you intend to appeal your claim after an initial decision, our team of VA-accredited attorneys can:
- Collate medical documentation
- Access service records, including DD-214s
- Assist in the submission of Supplemental Claims
- Represent you before the BVA or CAVC
- Maintain scrupulous recordkeeping
With over 120 combined years of experience and advantageous connections, we fuse the individualized treatment of a small-scale firm with the resources and influence of a nationwide practice. To enjoy the same degree of advice, assistance, and results as our 40 thousand previous clients, schedule an initial consultation today.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help with Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
The ratification of the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 represented a great breakthrough in expanding access to direly needed financial assistance for vulnerable and previously uncovered populations. Now that veterans of maritime operations in Vietnam and the DMZ can pursue streamlined disability benefits, they should consider contacting our team of qualified veterans disability claims lawyers.
We provide free consultations to prospective clients, and can aid you in understanding the eligibility of your claims pursuant to BWN criteria and the strength of the evidentiary record. If you are a veteran or dependant and wish to learn more about the compensation to which you may be entitled, you can reach us at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form on our site.