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 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 and deserve.
The Federal Practice Group 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 today for a case evaluation.