Blue Water Navy Veterans
Category: Veterans Disability Law
Article by Tuley Law staff
Between 1962 and 1975, approximately 2.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War. A subset of this population served aboard ships off the coast of Vietnam and never set foot on the shore. These individuals, estimated to be between 50 thousand to 90 thousand strong, are classified as Vietnam-era Blue Water Navy veterans. Until recently, these veterans were excluded from certain benefits because they never stepped on land.
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act
The Vietnam War saw unparalleled levels of destruction due to the use of an herbicide called Agent Orange as a weapon. The U.S. Military would release large volumes of Agent Orange over Vietnamese territory to poison enemy soldiers. Over the course of the Vietnam War, a large number of American troops were inadvertently exposed to the chemical, causing them to return to the U.S. with a multitude of ailments. Originally, only troops who served on land — sometimes called “boots on the ground” troops — were offered benefits for herbicide-related conditions.
On June 25, 2019, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 was signed into law. This act extended the presumption of chemical exposure to include certain Blue Water Navy veterans.
Blue Water Benefits Eligibility
Under the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, those who served on ships within a certain distance of Vietnam became eligible for compensation for Agent Orange exposure. Previously, it was assumed that those who were not in close proximity to the raw chemical would not be affected by it. However, it became clear that its range of impact was larger than expected.
The VA established a list of ships that were exposed during the Vietnam War. There are five categories — the first two pertain to inland ships and the last three cover Blue Water Navy ships. The five groups of exposed ships are as follows:
- Ships Operating Primarily or Exclusively in Vietnam’s Inland Waterways — Smaller vessels that patrolled or supporting ground missions. All veterans who served on these vessels are eligible for presumed exposure.
- Ships Operating Temporarily in Vietnam’s Inland Waterways — Larger ocean ships that offered gunfire support or ships that supplied and supported these operations. This includes destroyers, cruisers, and cargo ships.
- Ships That Docked to Shore or Pier in Vietnam — Large ocean ships that entered harbors and docked at a pier or onshore in Vietnam.
- Ships Operating in Vietnam’s Close Coastal Waters for Extended Period with Evidence That Crew Members Went Ashore — Large ocean ships with missions in the close coastal waters of Vietnam for long periods of time. This includes ships with proof that crewmembers went ashore such as hospital ships, minesweepers, and repair ships.
- Ships Operating on Vietnam’s Close Coastal Waters for Extended Periods with Evidence That Smaller Craft from the Ship Regularly Delivered Supplies or Troops Ashore — Large ocean ships in the Blue Water Navy that used a smaller landing ship to transfer supplies or trips in and out of the country. This includes landing ship docks, attack transporters, and attack cargo ships.
Each of these ships meets criteria for the necessary proximity and likely exposure to Agent Orange.
Just being on one of these ships doesn’t earn a veteran Blue Water compensation, to qualify for Blue Water VA benefits, two things must be true:
- You must have served offshore within 12 nautical miles (roughly 13.81 miles) seaward Vietnam’s demarcation line between 1962 and 1975
- You must currently be diagnosed with at least one of the medical conditions linked to Agent Orange that is acknowledged by the VA
There are 14 conditions that are presumed by the VA to be related to Agent Orange exposure, those conditions include:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
- Diabetes Mellitus Type II
- Multiple Myeloma
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease (this includes Coronary Artery Disease, myocardial infarction, stable and unstable angina, and sudden cardiac death)
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers, including Lung Cancer
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (aside from chondrosarcoma, mesothelioma, osteosarcoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma)
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
The VA also presumes Agent Orange is associated with Vietnam-era veterans’ biological children being affected by spina bifida.
Blue Water Compensation
Similar to other VA disabilities, the compensation received for herbicide related conditions depends on a combined disability rating. A disability rating is a value the VA assigns to an individual that signifies how severely his/her conditions limit him/her in daily activities and ability to function. This value is expressed as a percentage between 0-100% at increments of 10 (10%, 20%, 30%…), the higher the value, the higher compensation a disabled veteran will receive. At 100% the veteran is qualified for total unemployability, the maximum level of VA compensation.
As of December 1st, 2020, the compensation amounts based on disability rating are as follows:
- 0% disability rating – $0.00 per month
- 10% disability rating – $144.14 per month
- 20% disability rating – $284.93 per month
- 30% disability rating – $441.35 per month
- 40% disability rating – $635.77 per month
- 50% disability rating – $905.04 per month
- 60% disability rating – $1,146.39 per month
- 70% disability rating – $1,444.71 per month
- 80% disability rating – $1,679.35 per month
- 90% disability rating – $1,887.18 per month
- 100% disability rating – $3,142.42 per month
Additional benefits are also offered for eligible dependents, including:
- The veteran’s spouse
- Minor children
- Children between the ages of 18-23 who are still in school
- Dependent parents
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act also offers disability compensation for children who are born with spina bifida if there is reason to believe the condition is linked to the veteran’s military service.
As of November 30, 2020, 39,061 of 75,205 total Blue Water benefits claims have been processed by the VA. Out of the 39,061 claims, 27,366 were granted compensation — roughly 70%. While it can feel more convenient to file a Blue Water Navy claim online, it is recommended to file with the help of a VA disability lawyer. The guidance of an experienced attorney through the process of collecting necessary documentation and proving service connection can ensure you the proper compensation.
Tuley Law Office
If you are classified as a Vietnam Blue Water Navy veteran and believe you have a condition or disability that was caused or aggravated by exposure to Agent Orange, contact to Tuley Law Office today. Our VA disability lawyers have the knowledge to assist you in gathering evidence, appraising your case, and filing an effective claim for Blue Water benefits. Contact us to set up an appointment or if you’d like to consult with a professional about your situation.
Have questions about your case?Contact us