How the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act Affects Condition Presumptions

The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial in terms of US involvement. Even so, from 1955 to 1975, when the war ended, the United States deployed troops to help South Vietnam fight off its counterpart to the north. During this time, many service members were unknowingly exposed to a number of hazards that have been linked to several health conditions, some of which severely affected their or their family’s quality of life. In 2019, Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to help those exposed. It was signed into law in June of that year. 

What Is the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act? Exploring the Basics

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act (BWN) is a veteran benefits legislation aimed at improving the lives of affected service members and their families. It went into effect on January 1, 2020, and applies to veterans who had served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone or as many as 12 nautical miles from Vietnam’s shores between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. 

Those who have suffered conditions related to herbicide exposure may qualify for the benefits provided in the BWN. The illnesses associated with contact in the Blue Water Navy Agent Orange legislation include: 

  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Cancers
    • Bladder, prostate, respiratory
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Specific soft-tissue sarcomas
    • NOT chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, osteosarcoma, or mesothelioma
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • AL amyloidosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Early onset peripheral neuropathy
  • Chloracne
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

Some of the key provisions BWN offers to veterans are disability pay and free healthcare. If you are a child that was conceived after one of your parents served in Thailand between the aforementioned dates and was born with spina bifida, there are other services available to you, such as vocational training and rehabilitation and a monetary allowance.

Eligibility Criteria: Who Qualifies for Benefits under the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act?

Under the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, sailors who deployed and served in the aforementioned regions, along with some qualifying dependents, may be eligible for benefits. Children of parents who were confirmed to have herbicide exposure in Thailand and were born with spina bifida also qualify.  

You do not have to provide proof of exposure. The above-listed illnesses are considered presumptive diseases, meaning if you served in the specific dates and zones, and are diagnosed with one of them, the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) will presume it was a direct result of exposure. However, you must provide proof of your medical diagnosis and its severity to determine eligibility for benefits.

Expanding Disability Benefits: Understanding the Impact of the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act

If you submitted an application in relation to herbicide exposure under the BNW Act, you may qualify for specific benefits. These include a monthly stipend, which is determined by your diagnosis and disability level, and free healthcare from the VA for the disability. 

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act also allows those previously denied to resubmit a claim. If this applies to you, be sure that you include any pertinent information applicable to the legislation. This includes the dates your vessel traveled to the affected areas and any new medical information available about your condition(s). 

Additionally, the Blue Water Navy benefits act made changes to the VA’s existing Home Loan program, including adjustments to the funding fees and loan limits for those who meet the program requirements.

Health Care and Agent Orange: Updates Under the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act

When the law was passed, it expanded on several elements, such as the dates. For instance, the original dates of consideration for those in the Korean Demilitarized Zone were April 1, 1968, to August 31, 1971. The law extended the start date back to September 1, 1967, giving more applicants access to benefits. 

Under the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, affected service members who meet the criteria are added to the Agent Orange Registry. Joining this list means access to a free VA health exam to monitor for long-term health complications as a result of herbicide exposure. If you qualify under the guidelines, you’ll also receive free VA health care benefits in connection with the service-related disability. 

Navigating the Application Process: Tips for Accessing Benefits Under the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act

If you were a sailor or other service member who served from 1962 to 1975, it’s important to look at your history to determine if you served in one of the affected areas outlined. The VA has a specific team that works to identify those who might qualify and notify them.

Even if you received a notification from the VA that you might qualify for benefits under the BWN Act, it’s important that you actually file a claim. Without it, the VA cannot get started on determining which benefits you qualify for or issue them. If it’s your first filing, fill out VA Form 21-526EZ. There are many resources for veterans, including Navy veterans advocacy groups, that can help.

If you filed a claim and it’s been in process, you may be able to have your benefits dated back to the day of the claim and receive VA retroactive Navy benefits. You can appeal with VA Form 20-0995 if your claim has been denied. Additionally, survivors of veterans who were diagnosed and later died of an herbicide-linked disease can also apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, another claim process that could yield favorable results, depending on the deceased’s medical records. 

Getting the veteran entitlements you deserve is important, especially if you were exposed to herbicides and suffered an illness as a result. Because not everyone is aware of the changes, it can help to speak with someone who is informed about the process. If you need help or have questions about filling out the form, or want more information on the potential benefits you may be entitled to, contact us and we’ll help you get started.

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