According to a report in the Military Times, veterans who served on ships during the Vietnam War could soon have an easier time receiving benefits for exposure to Agent Orange. This rule change could make 92,000 veterans eligible for additional benefits, which were stripped from navy veterans in 2002.
Currently, a Vietnam veteran who patrolled inland rivers or served on the ground is assumed to have worked near Agent Orange if they have certain diseases. Accordingly, these veterans are given special status when they file for disability benefits. This status speeds up the process and makes it much easier to receive compensation.
However, “blue water veterans” who served on ships are not assumed to have come into contact with defoliants like Agent Orange. Instead, they must prove direct exposure to the chemical in order to have their illness or disability qualified as “service connected.” Given the amount of time that has passed since the Vietnam War, it is nearly impossible for most veterans to ever offer proof of direct exposure.
Unfortunately, to receive disability benefits, the disability or illness must be service-connected. Without the presumption, many navy veterans have been unable to secure the benefits they deserve.
The Blue Water Veterans Deal
Thanks to a new law under consideration by the U.S. Congress, blue water vets will get the same presumption as other veterans. If they have a disease like multiple myeloma cancer, which is presumed to result from Agent Orange exposure, then their illness will be considered service-connected without any additional proof required. As a result, over 90,000 could receive benefits for exposure to Agent Orange.
The additional benefits for blue water veterans will cost about one billion dollars, which legislators hope to raise by tacking on a small fee to VA home mortgages. The fee will cost in total about $350 over 10 years. Those servicemembers who are disabled will not pay the fee if they get a VA loan.
Passage Possible by Memorial Day
Earlier attempts to pass a blue water veterans bill have failed, much to the disappointment of affected veterans. These vets should be pleased to know that the House Committee voted unanimously to forward the bill for full consideration by the House on May 14, 2018. The bill will need approval from the House and Senate and then be signed into law by President Trump. Many veterans’ groups are optimistic that the bill will ultimately get signed into law, perhaps in time for Memorial Day.
Speak to a Chicago Veterans’ Benefits Lawyer Now
Disabled veterans and their family members need an experienced veterans’ benefits attorney in their corner who is looking out for them. The veterans’ benefits process is, unfortunately, complicated and drawn out, and many deserving veterans give up before they receive the benefits they are entitled to under the law.
At the Comerford Law Office, we will fight for you. Our client testimonials attest to our dedication and commitment to each and every one of our clients. To schedule your free consultation with us to learn more about the services we provide, please call 312-863-8572 or submit this contact form.