On January 29, 2019, a 9-2 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned past court opinions and stated that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot deny disability benefits to Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants merely because those veterans served in the waters off the coastline of Vietnam and not inland. This is a major victory for “blue water” Navy veterans who have fought for years over these denials.
Earlier this month, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie made the decision to delay claims processing for tens of thousands of “blue water” Navy veterans until January 1, 2020. In making this decision, Wilkie stated that the VA needed time to implement the law without causing adverse effects on other veterans awaiting claims decisions. Military Veterans Advocacy and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit arguing that Wilkie does not have the authority to order this delay. The lawsuit stresses that some veterans cannot afford to wait for their benefits.
Several Senators have also sent a letter to Wilkie, voicing their disapproval for his decision to delay “blue water” benefits. Eleven other Senators signed another letter requesting that the VA make decisions on “blue water” claims as quickly as possible.
For more information on VA Disability Benefits, including “blue water” claims, contact an experienced VA disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. represents VA disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process