Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

It’s official. After a long wait, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (Public Law 116-23) took effect on January 1, 2020. This new law extends the presumption of exposure to herbicides to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. It means that Veterans who served within twelve nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam are now entitled to service connected benefits based upon a condition that is presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange. This is also a win for the eligible survivors of these veterans.

According to Chris Johnson, attorney and partner at Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Hendersonville, Tennessee, this legislation is long overdue. “Prior to this decision, only those veterans with "boots on the ground" were entitled presumptively to benefits related to certain conditions,” Chris explains. “However, "boots on the ground" is no longer a requirement to receive benefits for the certain conditions if the veteran served within the designated twelve nautical miles.”

Chris notes that the number of veterans now eligible for the expanded benefits is large. “An estimated 420,000 to 560,000 Vietnam-era Veterans may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans,” Chris notes.

Eligible Blue Water Navy (BWN) Veterans can apply for disability compensation and other benefits if they served in this designated area between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 and developed one of 14 illnesses related to contact with herbicides such as Agent Orange. In addition, Veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Apr. 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971 may also qualify for benefits for themselves and their family members.

Agent Orange presumptive conditions include diabetes type II, soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma), Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, and AL amyloidosis.

The VA is now deciding claims to deliver benefits to eligible Veterans and survivors. “BWN claims are being processed under current prioritization with special priority given to BWN Veterans over age 85 or those who have a terminal condition,” Chris adds. “It’s also worth noting that veterans who previously were denied for an Agent Orange related presumptive condition can file a new claim based on the change in law. Eligible survivors of deceased Blue Water Navy Veterans also may benefit from the new law and may file claims for benefits based on the Veterans’ service.”

If you’re a veteran or you care for someone who served in Vietnam, it’s worth your time to check out whether your loved one may be eligible for Blue Water Navy compensation. If you would like assistance, your local Life Care Planning Law Firm will be able to help. Use this link to locate the Life Care Planning Law Firm closest to you.

In the meantime, check out the following links to helpful resources.

This video offers a brief overview of benefits and answers a few frequently asked questions.

Download the BWN Act Fact Sheet.

Learn about benefits for spouses, dependents, and parents. 

Learn about the 14 conditions related to herbicide exposure.

Visit the VA’s Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act information page.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act also includes changes to the Loan Guaranty program for all Veterans, not just Blue Water Navy Veterans.  To learn more about those changes, please visit the BWN Loan Guaranty Landing Page.