While veterans in Florida may hope to rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs to support their claims for benefits, a group of Navy veterans continues to face opposition to receiving benefits for Agent Orange healthcare. These “Blue Water Navy” veterans served in the Vietnam war on ships off the coast of Vietnam. While strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress support the veterans’ benefits, the VA has renewed its strong opposition. The agency says that there is insufficient evidence to show that veterans who served off the coast suffered ill effects from the widespread use of Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said that veterans seeking these benefits must show more evidence that they were affected by Agent Orange. While military veterans who served on Vietnam’s inland waterways or on the ground are eligible for healthcare and benefits linked to the toxic chemical, the VA says that a link has not been proven between Agent Orange and illnesses suffered by the 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans. The spokesperson also said that further studies would be conducted in 2019 to delve into the matter.
In addition, the spokesperson said that these naval veterans could file individual claims for case-by-case evaluations, noting that they should have strong scientific support. He also noted that claims by Afghanistan and Iraq vets for illnesses allegedly caused by toxic burn pits in the two countries must also show strong scientific evidence. Earlier, the VA surprised Congress when it announced its opposition to extending the benefits despite strong support from both parties throughout the House and the Senate.
Despite veterans’ service, they can face difficult challenges when seeking the benefits that they deserve. A veterans’ benefits attorney may be able to help people understand their eligibility for certain programs and complete the application process successfully.
Source: Military.com, “VA Renews Opposition to Agent Orange Benefits for Blue Water Navy Vets“, Richard Sisk, 01/18/2019