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Agent Orange Exposure for Navy Veterans

Agent Orange is an herbicide used during the Vietnam War, containing toxic dioxin compounds linked to cancers, birth defects, Type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and other health problems. Certain conditions are presumed to be service-connected if a Veteran can demonstrate exposure to Agent Orange. While Veterans stationed in Vietnam typically have their exposure readily acknowledged by the VA, those who served in the Navy on “blue water” ships encounter greater difficulty in establishing exposure.

Let’s take a look at the challenges faced by Navy Veterans seeking VA disability benefits for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure.

Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Presumption

The VA refers to Veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War as “Blue Water Navy Veterans.”

The VA considers a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation. If Veterans have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, they don’t need to prove that it started during their military service or got worse because of their military service. Veterans have a presumption of exposure if they meet at least one of these service requirements. The VA assumes that Veterans who served in certain locations were exposed to Agent Orange. This is presumptive exposure.

The agency states that Veterans who served on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, as defined in Public Law 116-23, are eligible for the Agent Orange Registry. However, inclusion on the registry does not mean that Veterans are automatically approved for disability benefits.

Agent Orange Legislation

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established a presumption of herbicide exposure for Veterans who served in Vietnam and who developed one or more of the diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. Veterans on board a ship that anchored or entered the “mouth of” the Cua Viet River, Saigon River, Mekong River Delta, Ganh Rai Bay, and the Rung Sat Special Zone are considered to have been presumptively exposed to Agent Orange.

The Blue Water Navy (BWN) Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (PL 116-23) extended the presumption of herbicide exposure, such as Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. The Act went into effect in 2020. It extends the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Veterans who served as far as 12 nautical miles from the shore of Vietnam and have since developed one of 14 conditions related to exposure. Some of these conditions include Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, many forms of cancer, and others.

In addition, Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971, may also qualify for compensation and benefits for themselves and their family members.

The VA will utilize the Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 to automatically reassess claims currently in the VA review process or under appeal. If Veterans previously had an Agent Orange exposure claim denied for one or more presumptive conditions, it’s recommended that they submit a new claim. When initiating the claims process, Veterans should supply or highlight any new and pertinent information related to their claim, such as the dates their vessel traversed the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam or updated medical details.

The PACT Act was signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022. It expands VA health care and benefits for toxic exposure. This includes Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. Under the PACT Act, the VA added 2 new Agent Orange presumptive conditions, high blood pressure (also called hypertension) and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). The VA also added five new Agent Orange presumptive locations.

Locations Added by the PACT Act

  • Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976, or
  • Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969, or
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969, or
  • Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980, or
  • Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977

How Can a Lawyer Help with My Agent Orange Disability Claim?

When facing complex challenges in the VA disability claims process, seeking assistance from experienced VA claims attorneys can be invaluable. The VA disability benefits lawyers at Berry Law possess in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of VA regulations and procedures, which can make a positive difference in the outcome.

Especially when navigating difficult claims posed by Blue Water Navy Veterans, having a knowledgeable advocate is key to establishing their eligibility for compensation. An experienced VA disability benefits lawyer can provide Blue Water Navy Veterans with comprehensive assistance throughout the process of pursuing an Agent Orange claim or appeal. Some of the tasks they can undertake include:

  • Case Evaluation: Review their case to assess the strength of their claim or appeal, identify any potential issues, and determine the best course of action.
  • Gathering Evidence: Assisting Veterans with collecting and organizing relevant evidence to support their claim, such as service records, medical records, and expert opinions linking their condition to Agent Orange exposure.
  • Legal Representation: Serving as their legal representative in interactions with the VA, including filing initial claims, responding to requests for additional information, and representing Veterans in hearings or appeals.
  • Navigating Complex Regulations: Providing guidance on the intricate regulations and requirements of the VA disability claims process, ensuring that their claim is prepared and presented following these regulations.
  • Appeals Process: Assisting Veterans in navigating the appeals process if their claim is initially denied, including filing appeals, gathering additional evidence, and representing the Veteran at hearings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. We can also help Veterans appeal a previous ruling using new laws like the Vietnam Veterans Act and the PACT Act to support their claim.
  • Medical Experts: Collaborating with medical experts to obtain and present persuasive evidence linking their condition to Agent Orange exposure, particularly in cases where medical opinions are crucial to establishing service connection.
  • Negotiation: Engaging in negotiations with the VA or its representatives to seek favorable outcomes for the Veteran, such as securing disability benefits or obtaining favorable decisions on appeals.

If Veterans encounter difficulties or uncertainties in their VA disability claim, consider reaching out to Berry Law for guidance and support. We focus on working for Veterans’ rights and can provide tailored assistance based on specific circumstances.

Contact Berry Law for Navy Veterans Agent Orange Exposure Claims

If Veterans served our country with courage and dedication during the Vietnam War, they may have been exposed to the harmful effects of Agent Orange. Veterans who face health challenges linked to this exposure are not alone.

At Berry Law, we understand the sacrifices Veterans made, and we’re here to support them on their journey to seeking the benefits they rightfully deserve. Our team of compassionate legal professionals focuses on helping Veterans navigate the complexities of Agent Orange disability benefits claims.

Veterans should not let the complexities of the claims process deter them from seeking the assistance they need. Veterans can take the first step towards securing the benefits they’re entitled to by reaching out to Berry Law today. We represent Veterans in all 50 states and our legal team is available 24/7. Call us at 888-883-2483 for a confidential consultation or fill out our online contact form.

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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