Blue Water claims to be delayed until Jan 1

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Blue Water claims to be delayed until Jan 1

Firly predictable here, but let's start at the beginning, from Leo Shane at Military Times:

The “blue water” Vietnam veterans benefits act is now law.

Late Tuesday night, President Donald Trump signed the legislation, which grants presumptive status for disability benefits to an estimated 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the seas around Vietnam during the war.

Unlike their fellow service members stationed on the ground and on inland waterways, those veterans faced additional paperwork barriers to prove exposure to toxic defoliants during their deployments, even after developing identical serious cancers and respiratory illnesses.

Advocates had long complained that put an unfair burden on the aging veterans, since water monitoring records from decades ago were inaccessible or non-existent. The higher proof of exposure blocked most so-called “blue water” veterans from eligibility for benefits, which can total several thousand dollars a month.

A federal appeals court in January overturned Veterans Affairs officials’ policy of denying the Navy veterans claims, and lawmakers followed in subsequent months with a legislative fix to reinforce the legal ruling.

And flash forward to today:

Thousands of veterans already waiting for years for their disability benefits will have to wait a few months longer after Veterans Affairs officials announced they won’t start processing “blue water” Vietnam veterans claims until next year.

In an announcement late last week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the delay is designed to “ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water Veteran community and minimize the impact on all veterans filing for disability compensation.”

But some advocates call the move another disappointing delay for aging, infirm veterans who have already waited decades for the benefits they believe they deserve.

The move all but ends a years long legal fight over presumptive benefits for up to 90,000 Vietnam veterans.

“Time is of the essence in this matter. Blue Water Navy Veterans are dying every day,” John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, wrote in a letter to Wilkie Monday morning. “These veterans have waited long enough.”

Specifically, here is what the VA said:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is preparing to process Agent Orange exposure claims for “Blue Water Navy” Veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.

These Veterans may be eligible for presumption of herbicide exposure through Public Law 116-23, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 , which was signed into law June 25, 2019, and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. They may also qualify for a presumption of service connection if they have a disease that is recognized as being associated with herbicide exposure.

The bipartisan Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act gives VA until Jan. 1, 2020, to begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims. By staying claims decisions until that date, VA is complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed.

“VA is dedicated to ensuring that all Veterans receive the benefits they have earned,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are working to ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water Veteran community and minimize the impact on all Veterans filing for disability compensation.”

Blue Water Navy Veterans are encouraged to submit disability compensation claims for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. Veterans over age 85 or with life-threatening illnesses will have priority in claims processing. Veterans who previously were denied for an Agent Orange related presumptive condition can file a new claim based on the change in law. Eligible survivors of deceased Blue Water Navy Veterans also may benefit from the new law and may file claims for benefits based on the Veterans’ service.

The new law affects Veterans who served on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, as defined in Public Law 116-23. An estimated 420,000 to 560,000 Vietnam-era Veterans may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans.

The key sentence there is the "VA is complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed."  And while that statement is accurate, I'm sure many of those affected by this would be quick to note that had the VA not fought this out in the first place in Procopio v. Wilkie it would have been done already.  Mr Procopio served in the Navy off the coast of Vietname in 1967, 52 years ago.  And now he has to wait atleast another 6 months before the claims can get looked at by VA.

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I served on a submarine off the Vietnam coast and in a river or two. Can't go into it past that as Sub operations are highly classified anyway. We sat submerged ay snorkel depth for days at a time, sucking in "Fresh Air" to run engines for air recirculation and run engines to charge batteries. My station was in charge of the Fwd. Engine Room and I benefitted from that cool "fresh air" dumping into my work station in great force. Spent hours sucking in that "so-called Fresh Air to cool off as no one warned us as to the hazards of Agent Orange. The delay isn't too bad for me as my claims were filed by a lawyer from Chicago and he just dropped my case a week ago due to constant delays from the VA. Gonna make another thru the local Legion post now.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.