Did someone you love serve in Vietnam? If so, you’ll want to keep reading, especially if your loved one was among the estimated 90,000 veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam.
It took 50 years for Blue Water Navy veterans to receive disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 gave these service men and women the compensation they deserved, extending disability benefits covering medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to those who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam.
According to Bob Mannor, attorney and founder of Mannor Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Michigan, Vietnam and Agent Orange have a long and difficult history. “For many years, the Veterans Administration (VA) denied that Agent Orange caused any problems,” Bob said. “Then, the pendulum swung the other way and the VA said that if you had boots on the ground, you were assumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, and if you got certain diseases, it was presumed that you got them because of the Agent Orange.”
Several years ago, the VA extended coverage to Vietnam “Brown Water” veterans, those whose service took them into lakes, rivers, and streams. It took the VA longer to include people who were within the range of Vietnam or Cambodia. Finally, in 2019, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act provided coverage for service men and women who were within 12 nautical miles of the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam or Cambodia.
Bob considers this a big win for Vietnam veterans. “This is huge for our clients,” he said. “Whenever anybody comes to our office, we always ask them about military service in Vietnam. If they served, they may be eligible for disability compensation that can help pay for long-term care. And if the veteran dies, the spouse might be able to get Disability and Indemnification Compensation, but only if the veteran had been receiving Blue Water benefits for at least ten years prior to the veteran's death. That’s why it’s so important to apply as soon as possible.”
Once the VA determines that a veteran’s long-term care needs are linked to Agent Orange exposure, the veteran becomes eligible for other benefits, such as care at VA-run nursing homes and private facilities with VA contracts.
How does working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm help families who want to go after these valuable VA benefits? Bob believes that the holistic approach is what clients appreciate most. “If you’re dealing with an elderly loved one, everyone has advice—relatives, neighbors, friends—and most of that advice isn’t great,” Bob added. “If you work with individual professionals like an elder law attorney and a geriatric care manage, they are all working in their own little silos. Everyone is doing a great job in their own area, but no one is looking at the big picture. Working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm gives you that big-picture perspective. When you have that, you’re in the driver’s seat.”
If you’re a veteran or you care for someone who served in Vietnam, it’s worth your time to learn more about the VA’s Blue Water benefits. Your local Life Care Planning Law Firm can help.
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 Sept. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971, may also qualify for benefits for themselves and their family members. Veterans who want to file an initial claim for an herbicide-related disability can use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.