A recently completed joint effort between the VA and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize Vietnam-era deck logs should simplify and speed up the claims process for Blue Water Navy veterans.
VA announced completion of the digitization of the Navy and Coast Guard records from 1956 to 1978 in a Sept. 28 press release. All Navy deck logs from the period were digitized by December 2019, per the release, with the Coast Guard logs finished in September 2020.
The digital records will ease the validation process for whether beneficiaries served in the waters off Vietnam, establishing a presumptive exposure to toxic defoliants such as Agent Orange and making them eligible for benefits under the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. NARA will make the logs available online to researchers and others.
That law went into effect Jan. 1. Since that date, VA has paid out $641 million in benefits to 22,254 Blue Water Navy veterans and survivors, per the Sept. 28 release. That means nearly $60 million has been paid out since July 31, when VA reported $583.8 million in total payments for 20,690 granted claims.
The current list of 14 Agent Orange presumptive diseases can be found at this link. MOAA has supported language in the Senate draft of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would add three conditions to the list: bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism symptoms.
The release did not address submarine deck logs, which were not included in the original grouping from the archives. This group is not included in the toxic-exposure presumption, and there is no official estimate of when, or if, this group will be included.
Veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses can contact VA at (800) 827-1000 for more information on filing a claim, or can reach out to an approved veterans service organization (VSO) for guidance.