Category: Veterans Disability Law
Agent Orange Compensation Back Pay: Blue Water Claims and Blue Water Back Pay Errors
After serving in the military, veterans must find different ways of receiving income. This typically means applying for and working in a new job. But sometimes, the injuries or ailments a veteran receives from their time in service prevent them from holding substantially gainful employment. For veterans who are unable to work as a result of their disability, retroactive benefits can be an essential part of meeting living expenses.
Back pay, or retroactive benefits, are paid out in a lump sum for the time between a claim being filed and when it is approved. When a veteran files a disability claim, they receive an effective date. The effective date represents the day they will be paid from. This is typically when the claim was filed, or when the disability began affecting the veteran.
Assuming a veteran is unable to work for extended periods of time, they may incur large amounts of debt when trying to make ends meet. Even if they file a disability claim, they will not be paid until that claim is approved by VA. If the veteran incurs debt during this time, the benefits paid out after approval alone might not be sufficient to pay back what is owed. Retroactive benefits provide an extra layer of protection against poverty so veterans may equalize their debts and live off the steady flow of benefits.
Agent Orange Compensation Back Pay
Back pay for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange functions differently than in typical situations. Disabilities or illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War are classified as presumptive conditions. Presumptive conditions are those conditions for which the VA will assume service connection due to an influx of individuals experiencing the same conditions around the same time. Many of the veterans who served in Vietnam all experience the same health issues, making it easier to conclude that these issues were caused by the veterans’ service.
With Agent Orange presumptive conditions, the effective date will only go as far back as when the law was passed in 2019 if filing a new claim. However, if the veteran made a claim that was previously denied, it can be reversed with an effective date of the original claim.
Blue Water Navy Claims
Blue Water Navy veterans have historically been overlooked by VA disability legislation. The VA Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 expanded benefits for Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served on ships and never set foot on land. This change enabled roughly 560,000 more veterans to be eligible for presumptive condition benefits. This number is smaller when excluding individuals who already receive VA benefits for other conditions.
On top of this Act, there was a court order in 2020 that ruled that Blue Water veterans have been wrongly denied benefits since 2002. This means that veterans who submitted a claim for Blue Water benefits and got denied were indeed eligible for retroactive benefits dating back to the time of their initial claim. The 2,000 to 15,000 veterans this applied to were roughly estimated to receive an average of $28,000 dollars in benefits.
Issues With Agent Orange Blue Water Navy Benefits
According to the VA Inspector General’s Office, the total mistakes that have been made in regards to VA Blue Water benefits totals around $37 million. $12 million of this comes from underpayments based on inaccurate VA ratings, while the other $27 million have been overpayments. VA employees had a difficult time processing Blue Water claims because of the effective dates. Determining the exact dates benefits should be paid from resulted in many veterans being paid an incorrect amount.
Blue Water Back Pay Errors
VA has been awarding benefits to Vietnam veterans for any conditions related to Agent Orange for decades. When Congress passed new legislation that expanded coverage to the veterans who served on offshore ships, VA did not award retroactive benefits beyond the passage of that law. VA employees had not been trained to understand this and often granted veterans additional benefits that they were not entitled to. VA officials claimed that improvements were underway to avoid the mistakes made since the Act was passed.
Since then, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California made a decision in favor of veterans who served on boats off the coast of Vietnam. This decision required VA to instantly and automatically reverse their decisions on thousands of Blue Water claims which were previously denied. In 2002, a VA policy change stopped awarding benefits to Blue Water veterans who had been receiving benefits since as early as 1991. The new decision addressed that 2002 policy change and decided that Agent Orange presumptive condition back pay should indeed be extended to Blue Water Navy veterans.
Along with a multitude of back and forth policy changes, there were also cases in which veterans received less Agent Orange compensation back pay than they were entitled to. One way to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve is by hiring a VA disability attorney who understands the system.
Benefits of Hiring a VA Disability Lawyer for Agent Orange Back Pay
The rules surrounding Blue Water veteran Agent Orange back pay are still relatively new and complex. With specific dates and specific conditions that dictate eligibility, it can be difficult to know exactly how much money you may be leaving on the table.
A VA disability attorney can answer any questions you have regarding your claim, provide you with estimates of your rating and benefits, and help you organize your case in a way that increases your chances of receiving adequate compensation. Our legal team can assist you in the case of an appeal if VA provides you with an unfavorable ruling. The laws are vague and the language is dense. Do not add to the stress of your disability by challenging yourself with arduous tasks and complicated legalities—hire a lawyer to cultivate the best possible chances of winning.
An experienced VA disability lawyer with knowledge surrounding compensation for Vietnam War veterans will know the rules and how they apply to you.
Contact the VA Disability Attorneys at Tuley Law Office
At Tuley Law Office, we have years of experience representing disabled veterans. If you or a loved one have questions about Agent Orange back pay or Blue Water benefits, contact our team today.
Reach out to us by calling (812) 625-2149 or filling out our online contact form.
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