Did you serve in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975? If so, then you’re considered a Blue Water Navy (BWN) Veteran.
On Jan. 1, 2020, the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 goes into effect. This Act was signed into law on Jun. 25, and extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, such as Agent Orange, to BWN Veterans who served as far as 12 nautical miles from the shore of Vietnam and have since developed one of 14 conditions related to exposure. Some of these conditions include Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, many forms of cancer and others. You may now be eligible for disability compensation and other benefits. In addition, if you’re a Veteran who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971, you may also qualify for compensation and benefits for yourself and your family members.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
The best way to find out if you’re eligible is to work with an accredited claims representative or Veterans Affairs (VA) regional office to understand eligibility requirements before filing a claim. You don’t need to prove contact with herbicides to be eligible.
How do I file a claim for compensation benefits?
You can file an initial claim (that has not been previously decided by VA), by submitting Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. CLICK HERE to initiate your new claim.
You can also contact an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to assist you with your application. To access a list of VA-approved VSOs, CLICK HERE. You may also contact your state’s Veterans agency should you need additional assistance with the application process.
What if I’ve previously filed a claim that was denied?
VA will be using the new law to automatically review claims that are currently with the VA review process or under appeal. However, if you had an herbicide exposure claim with one or more presumptive conditions denied in the past, you are urged to file a new claim.
When you begin the claims process, be sure to provide or identify any new and relevant information regarding your claim, such as the dates the vessel you were serving on traveled through the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam or updated medical information.
Submit a VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim.
How should survivors and dependents apply for initial Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Claim for a Veteran who died of presumptive condition?
Eligible survivors and dependents must meet certain conditions to receive DIC. To learn more about this process, CLICK HERE. If found to be eligible, there are several ways to file a claim, including:
- By mail, using VA Form 21P-534EZ.
- In person at a VA regional office.
- An accredited claims representative or VSO.
What benefits will I receive if my claim is approved?
If you are deemed eligible, you may receive a monthly disability compensation payment and free healthcare related to your disability. The amount of compensation you may receive is determined by your diagnosed condition and level of disability.
Another important component of the Blue Water Navy Act includes changes to the VA Home Loan program. VA now allows the no-down payment option on guaranteed home loans, regardless of mortgage amount for ALL Veterans. In addition, there is a reduction in the funding fee required for Reservists and National Guard borrowers and other changes.
More information and resources on the Blue Water Navy Act, eligibility, how to file a claim, and changes to the VA Home Loan Program can be found online HERE.
Renee Johnson is a public affairs specialist for the Veterans Benefits Administration.