During the Vietnam War, many American navy men were exposed to a chemical herbicide called Agent Orange. The ill-effects of this defoliating agent led many veterans to suffer from some very serious illnesses. While the VA did accommodate some of those affected veterans for expedited benefits, there remained a large number of navy men who were not included owing to the fact that they served off the coast of Vietnam without actually setting foot on shore. A recent development is about to change that.
President Donald Trump on June 26, 2019 signed into law the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which would expedite the payment of benefits to those very same veterans affected by Agent Orange who were earlier ignored. Those included are veterans who served within 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. In addition, veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971 and children of veterans who served in Thailand between January 1962 and May 1975 are also under the purview of this act.
This new legislation is the result of a decades-long struggle organized by an advocacy group that finally took the federal government to court. On the cost side, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that this new law will cost the exchequer around $1.1 billion over the next 10 years and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that the cost of implementing this program is as high as $5.5 billion. The bright side is that as many as 90,000 veterans will benefit from this law, per the VA's estimates.
The passage of this law will be welcomed by many Blue Water veterans in Alabama and the rest of the country. However, the mere passage of a law does not guarantee that veterans will be able to obtain benefits easily. In fact, the VA's compensation claim and the eligibility determination processes remain unchanged and complicated, as always. Therefore, it may to be a wise decision for veterans to seek professional guidance when claiming benefits from the VA, either for Agent Orange exposure or otherwise.