The Department of Veterans Affairs has completed a little less than half of all Blue Water Navy claims since it began doing so on Jan. 1 following the passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last year, and so far the agency has approved 71.4% of cases, according to VA figures.
As of July 31, the VA recorded 63,818 total claims for processing, with 28,960 completed and 34,858 pending.
Of those completed claims, 20,690 had been accepted for a total of $583.8 million in benefit payments — an acceptance rate of 71.4%. Of those claims, Veteran claims made up the majority (24,720), followed by survivor claims (4,240). Veteran claims were granted at a slightly higher rate compared to survivor claims (72.6% to 64.5%).
The most common granted Agent Orange disabilities are diabetes mellitus, coronary bypass surgery, arteriosclerotic heart disease (coronary artery disease), malignant growths of genitourinary system, and malignant growth of the lung.
The most common reasons for a denial was because of no diagnosis or the condition was not established by presumption.
H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, was signed into law last year, but the VA immediately placed a stay on the bill. The stay was lifted on Jan. 1.
The bill covers some sailors who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War despite not setting foot on land. The bill restricts claims to those who served on ship 12 miles from the baseline (which in some cases is farther than the shore). However, the Procopio court decision earlier in 2019 expands that range even further, and we believe veterans who are not covered under H.R. 299 deserve coverage under Procopio.
Specifically, H.R. 299 applies to veterans who served between Jan. 6, 1962 and May, 1975, as well as those who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Jan. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971.
“These Veterans can now apply for disability compensation and other benefits if they have since developed one of 14 conditions that are presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides,” the VA said in a statement. “Veterans do not need to prove that they were exposed to herbicides.”
Some of those conditions include leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.
“Blue Water Navy claims are being processed under current prioritization criteria; however, special priority is being given to Veterans who are over the age of 85 or have a terminal condition,” the statement adds. “Qualifying recipients include affected Veterans who are still living and certain survivors of deceased BWN and Korean DMZ Veterans.”