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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Disability benefits available to those serving offshore

Agent Orange Exposure in the Republic of Vietnam Waters (Blue Water Navy)

Blue Water Navy Veterans are now entitled to a presumption of service connection for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. This extension of the presumption is a result of Public Law 116-23, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, signed into law on June 25, 2019. The law takes effect January 1, 2020. The law states that Veterans aboard a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia as defined in Public Law 116-23, between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange and may be entitled to service connection for conditions related to that exposure. To be entitled to disability compensation benefits, these Veterans must have one or more of the conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure that are listed in 38 Code of Federal Regulations section 3.309(e). 

What conditions are related to Agent Orange exposure?

Agent Orange presumptive conditions are:

  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne, or other acne form disease consistent with chloracne
  • Chronic B-cell leukemias
  • Diabetes mellitus, Type 2
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin's disease
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea)
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosar-coma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma).

Where/How do I apply?

  • Contact my Norwich office at 860-886-0139 and ask to speak with a Veterans caseworker.
  • Visit a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you.
  • Work with an accredited representative or agent (such as a local VSO) to submit a claim. The VA's website has a search function to help you locate a representative near you.
  • Apply online using www.va.gov - however, we HIGHLY recommend you complete your claim with the assistance of one of the above so they can help you get your claim right the first time.

When applying, make sure to:

  • State on your application that you are filing for one of the presumed Agent Orange conditions
  • Include any evidence you have of service in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the required timeframe. Include the name(s) of the ship(s) and date(s) you crossed within 12 nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam if you have this information
  • Provide medical evidence showing a diagnosis of a current Agent Orange presumptive condition OR mention where you are being treated

Frequently Asked Questions

 Do I need to prove contact with Agent Orange?

No. You don’t need to show that you came into contact with Agent Orange. Congress has provided that conditions on the list of presumptive diseases will be deemed to have been caused by contact with Agent Orange through service in the Republic of Vietnam, including offshore waters as defined by the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019.

What will the effective date for Benefits be for Blue Water Navy Veteran claims?

Presumptive Agent Orange conditions granted for Blue Water Navy Veterans may be retroactive to the date VA received your original claim.  If you had a previously denied claim and you resubmit your claim, the effective date will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When do the Blue Water Navy presumptions go into effect?

The Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 will take effect on January 1, 2020. Veterans can file claims at any time, and they will be decided after the law is implemented. Blue Water Navy claims and appeals currently in process have been placed on hold (stayed) until the new rules go into effect. The bipartisan Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act gives VA until Jan. 1, 2020, to begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims. By staying claims decisions until that date, VA is complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed.

How will the previously denied claims be handled?

If you had an Agent Orange claim with one or more presumptive conditions denied in the past, you are urged to file a new claim. Provide any new and relevant information regarding your claim such as dates you believe your ship traveled within 12 nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam, or updated medical information. Claims that are currently in the VA review process or under appeal will be reviewed under the new policy. 

If a Blue Water Navy Veteran has not applied for benefits in the past, but would like to apply now will the presumption of exposure be extended to them?

Yes, VA will apply the provisions of the law to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans who file new claims based on presumption of exposure to Agent Orange.

What happens if the Veteran dies before his or her claim is decided?

If the claimant dies while his or her claim is pending, a living dependent, such as a spouse or child, may file a request to be substituted as the claimant.

May the surviving spouse of a Blue Water Navy Veteran who passed away from a condition related to Agent Orange exposure, and who was previously denied compensation for such condition, become entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?

If the Veteran served on a Navy or Coast Guard ship that that operated not more than 12 nautical miles from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia as defined in the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 and the cause of death was from a condition related to exposure to Agent Orange, then VA may award entitlement to DIC on that basis.

Where can I get additional information on disability compensation for Agent Orange?

Veterans with questions about benefits or filing a claim can visit the VA Agent Orange website www.va.gov/ disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/agentorange/navy-coast-guard-ships-vietnam/. They can also call the disability benefits call center at 800-827-1000.

More on Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

November 8, 2019 Press Release
“These are men and women who have fought tooth and nail for well over a decade to produce this policy change within the VA, and it’s been an honor to work alongside them to achieve this result,” said Congressman Courtney.
June 26, 2019 Press Release
“The battle is over, and our Blue Water veterans won,” said Congressman Courtney.
June 12, 2019 Press Release
“Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans have been denied benefits that they deserve for 17 years,” said Congressman Courtney.
May 14, 2019 Press Release
“For 17 years, Blue Water Navy veterans have been forced to endure an insult on top of the injuries they sustained due to exposure to Agent Orange,” said Congressman Courtney.
January 29, 2019 Press Release
“It is welcome news that the Court corrected a 17-year injustice today,” said Congressman Courtney.
January 8, 2019 Press Release
“The Senate’s failure to pass this bill last year and finally right this wrong for our Vietnam-era veterans was one of the most disappointing aspects of the last session of Congress,” Courtney said. “While the House acted in a bipartisan and unanimous way to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act in 2018, the objections of a small number of Senators blocked action that would have made this bill law. That this bill is being introduced in the first days of the 116th Congress demonstrates our ongoing commitment to ensure that we do right by all our veterans exposed to agent orange, whether on land or on the sea.”
November 12, 2018 Press Release
“Blue Water Navy Vietnam war veterans have already waited far too long for recognition of the medical conditions they have suffered due to exposure to the Agent Orange toxin,” Courtney said. “The House worked for months to negotiate a bipartisan compromise that passed the House unanimously in June and which the Senate has had nearly five months to consider. As we honor and celebrate the contributions our veterans have made this Veterans Day, it is critical that we remember our Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans and honor their sacrifices by providing the care and compensation they clearly and fairly deserve. It is time for the Senate to act.”
June 25, 2018 Press Release
“This is a good day for the House and more importantly, for our veterans,” Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) said. “Blue water veterans have waited decades for action and fairness from the VA and from Congress. I am proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis to finally get this this important and long-overdue legislation passed in the House. I hope that the Senate will follow our lead and pass this bipartisan bill without delay so that our Blue Water veterans can finally receive the recognition and care they deserve.”
May 1, 2018 Press Release
It is hard to overstate how important this legislation is for the Navy veterans who are suffering from Agent Orange exposure without any medical coverage from the VA,” said Courtney.
January 4, 2018 In The News

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is pushing the House to act on legislation that would restore access to VA benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins during the Vietnam War.

Blue Water Navy veterans, those who served on ships in the territorial seas of Vietnam, are not eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs related to Agent Orange or other herbicide exposure.

"The clock is ticking for these veterans," Courtney said by phone Wednesday.

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