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‘Blue Water’ Vietnam Veterans Will Finally Get Agent Orange Benefits

More than 50 years after the U.S. started using Agent Orange in Vietnam, service members who were exposed to the dangerous herbicide while on offshore vessels can start collecting benefits. Though Congress passed a law in 1991 creating a presumption of Agent Orange exposure for “brown water” service members who worked on boats within the country’s inland waterways, approximately 90,000 “blue water” veterans who never reached Vietnam’s shores were excluded.

Years of litigation over the exclusion ended with a court decision this past January stating that blue water Vietnam veterans are entitled to the same presumption. The ruling, which the Department of Justice’s has said it will not appeal, opens the door to thousands of veterans who can finally obtain a measure of justice. Claimants should understand these key aspects of the situation:

  • Expanded coverage area —The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in Procopio v. Wilkie that said that the use of “Republic of Vietnam” in the Agent Orange law also covers the 12 nautical miles of water abutting the country’s coast. So if you were stationed on a ship within this zone, you may qualify for compensation.
  • Medical conditions linked to Agent OrangeAgent Orange relief is available to affected veterans suffering from diseases that are presumed to be caused by the toxic defoliant, including prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes mellitus type 2 and chronic B-cell leukemia.
  • Disability benefit claims — Previously, the VA offered medical care for affected blue water veterans but did not provide the disability payments given to those who can prove their ailments are related to toxic exposure while on duty. The new standard could mean thousands of dollars per month for the new group of claimants who have waited so long.

Given the time that has elapsed, however, potential beneficiaries of this decision should contact a qualified lawyer promptly to discuss their options.

Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban represents Vietnam veterans and those who served during other military engagements as they seek the benefits they’ve earned through their service. If you or a loved one has been harmed by Agent Orange or is pursuing other relief from the VA, please call 866-866-VETS or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. We represent clients nationwide.

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