What does the Blue Water Navy Veteran Bill mean for you?

by Joe R. Pilgrim, Attorney at Law and US Navy Veteran

For many years, Blue Water Veterans have been rejected from receiving VA benefits for their exposure to Agent Orange (AO).  Unlike “boots on the ground” Veterans that served on the ground in Vietnam and Brown Water Navy Veterans that served onboard ships in the inland waterways of Vietnam, Blue Water Navy Veterans do not get their symptoms and diseases recognized as service connected.

Yet.

The Blue Water Navy Veteran bill H.R. 299 was introduced on January 5, 2017, passed the House of Representatives on June 25, 2018, and is now heading to the Senate.

This bill finally grants those serving on board ships during the period of January 9, 1962 and ending on May 7, 1975.

Understanding the New Effective Date

Currently, the effective date of a disability with the VA is the date of application for benefits.  If the initial application is denied, the Veteran has one year from the date of the Rating Decision to appeal that decision.  If that appeal is not filed in that time frame, the filing date dies with the claim.  New and material evidence concerning the matter can re-open the claim, with the new “effective date” being the date of the re-opening filing for benefits.

Under the current regulations, if a Veteran applied for disability benefits because of AO exposure in Vietnam, filed it in 1987, was denied, reapplied for it in 2017 and was awarded, the effective date is 2017: the date of re-opening the claim and they are “back-paid” to that date.

Under the proposed bill, if the same Veteran applied for benefits in 1987, was denied, then reapplied in 2018 and was approved, the effective date is 1987, not 2018.  This is a huge departure from how claims have been handled in the past and can result in potentially very large awards being granted to Veterans.

Service Connection for Korean and Thailand Veterans

A section of the proposed bill covers and grants Service Connection for disease to those Veterans that served in or near the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) from September 1, 1967 through August 21, 1971.

Yet another section provides benefits to certain Veterans who served in Thailand, whose children were born with spina bifida – this is currently allowed as a benefit for children of a Vietnam Veterans suffering from the same disease.  A service-covered Thailand Veteran is an individual that served between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 in the active military in Thailand.  This is granted regardless of the character of the Veteran while in service.

We are keeping a close eye on this bill as it has the chance to change the lives of many Veterans and their families.

You don’t have to fight this battle alone. For more information on how the Berry Law Firm can help, contact us now for a free consultation and advice about your legal rights.