Blue Water Navy Veterans and survivors who filed compensation claims in January and February 2020 have so far received over $140 million in retroactive benefits. This information can be found in a new monthly report published on the 10th business day of each month to inform Veterans and other stakeholders about BWN claims decisions.
These figures show the latest results from VA directly acting upon the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act of 2019 that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
The BWN Act extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, such as Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, as well as Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971. Prior to this law, only Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or within Vietnam’s inland waterways were eligible to receive disability compensation based on a presumption of herbicide exposure.
How to file
Filing a claim for BWN benefits is a straightforward process. Veterans who wish to file an initial claim for an herbicide-related disability that have not been previously decided by VA can use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, online at https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim.
However, BWN Veterans who were previously denied will be able to reapply using VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. As of Jan. 1, VA began processing BWN claims that were stayed in the VA review process or under appeal.
Survivors and dependents who have never filed a claim but want to file a claim now can use VA Form 21P-534EZ. Survivors and dependents who have been previously denied a Dependency and Indemnity claim and want to file another claim now can use VA Form 20-0995. For additional Dependency and Indemnity claims information, visit https://www.va.gov/disability/dependency-indemnity-compensation.
If Veterans or survivors need help determining the location of the vessel a Veteran traveled on, VA has collaborated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize the deck logs of more than 1,800 Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
VA also developed an internal claims-related technical processing system which incorporates data from the digital deck logs and identifies vessels that may have traveled within the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. While there are others claiming to be able to help BWN Veterans locate their ship positions, VA strongly discourages Veterans from relying on any unauthorized service or tool as VA cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information. VA was also not involved in developing any publicly available online tools currently being advertised.
VA encourages any Veteran who thinks that they may be eligible for Blue Water Navy benefits to contact an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to assist with the application process. Veterans can also contact their state Veterans Affairs Office.
Additional information and resources about the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, eligibility requirements and how to file an initial or supplemental claim can be found online at https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp.
Renee Johnson is an executive assistant in VBA’s Office of Strategic Engagement.