A bill was recently introduced in the United States Senate to require the
Veterans Administration to provide disability and health care benefits
to a broader group of veterans potentially harmed by Agent Orange, a tactical
herbicide used in the Vietnam conflict. S. 681, the “Blue Water
Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015,” was introduced by U.S. Senators
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Steve Daines (R-MT). A similar bill, H.R.
969, is pending in the House of Representatives.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million
gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This had
devastating effects for millions serving in Vietnam. Agent Orange has
been linked to a range of other diseases, including several blood and
respiratory cancers, type II diabetes, prostate cancer and more. A 1990
study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that
Vietnam veterans’ rate of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 50 percent
higher than the general population’s. A 2010 study by the Institute
of Medicine (the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences) cited
exposure to Agent Orange as increasing the chance of developing serious
heart problems and Parkinson’s disease.
The VA is currently required to provide coverage to Vietnam-era veterans
with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent
Orange exposure. However, the VA determined in 2002 that it would only
cover veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on
the ground.” This excluded thousands of sailors who might have received
significant Agent Orange exposure while in “blue water,” that
is, anywhere within the “territorial seas” of approximately
12 miles offshore of Vietnam.
An Institute of Medicine report from May 2011 stated there were multiple
ways veterans could have suffered Agent Orange exposure, including the
water distillation process on Naval ships and through the air. In 2005,
the VA’s former Director of Environmental Agents Service Dr. Mark
Brown publicly acknowledged that there was no scientific basis for the
exclusion of Blue Water Vietnam veterans, but the VA continues to deny
these veterans their presumptive benefits.
Direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended in 1973; however, 42 years
later we are still fighting for veterans to receive the coverage and benefits
they should be granted for the injuries they incurred serving their country.
As the Agent Orange case makes clear, the fight for veterans’ benefits
can last decades.
The knowledgeable attorneys at The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service
fight for veterans’ rights every day. We are a firm with veterans
at our core – as one of the Founding Partners, as many of our attorneys,
and as part of our professional administrative team. We understand your
fights and struggles and will fight with you to get what you have earned
The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service assists veterans and military
service members with a broad array of legal issues, from military pay
and benefits, military disability, military records correction, military
criminal defense including courts-martial, and other matters. If you are
a veteran or active duty military service member facing a legal problem,
contact the experienced military rights attorneys at The Federal Practice
Group Worldwide Service today for a case evaluation.