Blue Water Navy veterans in Florida and around the country are now eligible to receive disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for medical conditions linked to their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The new rules went into effect when President Trump signed H.R. 299, which is also known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, on June 25. The law extends the benefits made available to land-based Vietnam War veterans and U.S. Navy personnel who served in inland areas by the 1991 Agent Orange Act.

Agent Orange is a chemical herbicide that was used extensively in Vietnam to defoliate jungle regions and deny cover to enemy forces. In the years following the conflict, Agent Orange was linked to a series of deadly diseases including various forms of cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. VA benefits relating to Agent Orange exposure are now available to all military personnel who served within 12 nautical miles of the Vietnamese coastline between January 1962 and May 1975.

The new law allows the spouses of Blue Water Navy veterans who died from conditions associated with Agent Orange to receive pension benefits. It also provides rehabilitation, vocational training and financial benefits to the children of U.S. personnel in Thailand who suffer from spina bifida due to Agent Orange exposure.

Applying for veterans’ benefits can be a long and frustrating process for individuals who often made significant sacrifices to serve the United States. The process is made even more challenging for veterans by companies that offer VA benefits advice and planning in order to sell annuities. Attorneys who are accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to help former military personnel with the claims process.