In advance of the Jan. 1 effective date of a new law granting long-sought VA benefits to Vietnam War veterans who served off that nation’s coast, the VA has announced how these veterans, or their survivors, can claim what they are owed.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 extends the presumption of herbicide exposure to those who served as far as 12 nautical miles off Vietnam’s coast from Jan. 6, 1962, to May 7, 1975, and to those who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from Sept. 1, 1967, to Aug. 31, 1971. Veterans can apply for compensation and other benefits if they’ve been diagnosed with one of 14 conditions presumed related to herbicide exposure.
Survivors can file benefit claims if the veteran died of one of the conditions. The law also provides benefits for individuals born with spina bifida whose parents served in Thailand from Jan. 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975.
Some details on how to receive benefits, according to a Dec. 12 VA news release:
- Initial veteran claims. Per the release, veterans can file VA Form 21-526EZ (get a fillable form here) to begin the process. MOAA recommends the use of a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to help compile and submit a VA disability compensation claim and/or appeal; a VSO will ensure that your claim is complete, containing all required documentation and proper forms. You can find the list of nationally accredited VSOs on Page 3 of VA Form 21-22 (Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant’s Representative). Most U.S. states and territories participate in the National County VSO program; you can find your State’s program here.
- Veteran appeals or claim updates. Veterans who’ve already sought these benefits from the VA and been denied can re-apply using VA Form 20-0995 (get a fillable form here). However, VA will review all Blue Water Navy claims under appeal or already in the review process, per the news release, so this re-application may not be necessary unless there are updates to your individual case or condition.
- Survivor claims. Surviving spouses or dependents of Blue Water Navy veterans may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Learn more about that claims process here.
MOAA and other organizations asked VA to move forward earlier with the claims process, stating in a July letter that delaying the process until 2020 “will unnecessarily delay the provision of VA health care and benefits to thousands of aging and ill Vietnam veterans and survivors.” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the December news release that the agency had spent the last six months digitizing and organizing Navy records, which “will positively impact the claims process for Veterans filing for these benefits.”
Other references for Blue Water Navy veterans and their families:
- VA’s list of Blue Water Navy frequently asked questions.
- A partial list of Navy and Coast Guard ships with service off of Vietnam’s coast.
- VA’s Blue Water Navy webpage, including more links to fact sheets, Agent Orange information, and other resources.