The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 gave VA an opportunity to consider new and previously submitted Blue Water Navy claims. Now, thanks to collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), VA and NARA are helping to determine ship locations and to digitize more than 1,800 vessels’ deck logs.

The data contained in these ships’ deck logs is critical in determining qualifying ship locations in accordance with the law. For the first time, VA will have each of these ships mapped with precision, providing a comprehensive view of their locations.

VA estimates that there are between 420,000 and 560,000 Vietnam-era Veterans who may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans. The law also extends benefits to survivors and dependents of those Veterans with confirmed service and whose claims would have been granted as a result of the new law.

What Veterans need to know

NARA’s and VA’s collaboration has already assisted in granting more than 22,524 claims since Jan. 1, 2020. The effort digitized more than 29 million images from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard deck logs. It has also provided data, such as ship name, date and coordinates to feed an internal claims-related technical processing system that identifies the vessels that may have traveled within the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. This proactive approach ensures that Rating Veterans Service Representatives have the evidence needed to render a decision the first time a case is reviewed.

This effort has resulted in faster service for Veterans and reduced the need for physical handling of archival records which preserves our nation’s historical documents. NARA is in the process of redacting the images to make them publicly accessible on the National Archive’s website.

How to file a claim

VA works with Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) and other partners to ensure Veterans and survivors are aware of the changes and know how to determine eligibility for disability compensation or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) when filing a claim.

If Veterans, survivors or dependents have previously filed and were denied a claim, they can file a supplemental claim. VA encourages Veterans to work with an approved claims representative or VSO to determine if they qualify.

To learn more, please visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp.


Daniel Kuester and Meghan Badame contributed to this blog. Kuester is a Navy Veteran and a Public Affairs Specialist for VBA’s Office of Strategic Engagement. Badame is a Communications Specialist with VBA’s Media Relations team.

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19 Comments

  1. James H. Reider October 20, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    In country Jan-Dec 1970,,Gulf 1972 USS STERRET DLG1.
    Non hogdins lymphoma 1985, surgery 7 weeks radiation therapy. Destroyed my saliva glands.. lived on boost liquid for 33 years. 1991 #118 . Feeding tube i stomach. Colospy bag on out side, complete colum removal. Both coradid arteries block all the way to the brain ,non-operable.
    On going 33 year interface with VA, they only reply “need more information
    The. VA moto is”ASK NOT WHAT WE DO FOR THE VETERAN,, ASK WHAT WE DO FOR OUR BONUS WHEN WE DENY A CLAIM”.
    Now 82 yearss old and I think they are going to win.

  2. David William Grohman October 15, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Thank You for the Blue Water Navy Update concerning Agent Orange Claims. My questions to you are, If I have a symptom
    that is listed in the “Specific Presumed Conditions” for Vietnam Veterans of the Blue Water Navy and have been treated for
    my condition and am currently under recovery, yet being monitored, 1.) HOW MUCH PROOF DO I NEED TO PRESENT IN MY CLAIM OF AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE AND MY ILLNESS THAT HAS BEEN DETERMINED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT AND THE V.A. TO BE THE CAUSE OF MY “PRESUMED CONDITION” RELATED TO EXPOSURE TO AGENT ORANGE WHILE I SERVED 2 TOURS OF COMBAT DUTY IN VIETNAM FROM NOVEMBER 1971 TO JULY 1973? I was stationed on the U.S.S. WHITE PLAINS AFS4 (Fleet Supply Ship) and was all over the coastal waters and brown waters of Vietnam. 2.) I WAS EXPOSED AND I DID HAVE AN ILLNESS (Soft-tissue sarcoma) (Basel Cell Carcinoma Stage II Cancer.) I currently have a claim filed through the Livingston County VA in Howell, Michigan. 3.) What more “PROOF OF MY ILLNESS DO I NEED TO SHOW THE VA, THAT MY SOFT TISSUE CANCER WAS FROM AGENT ORANGE? Thank You! Sincerely, David William Grohman

  3. David E Burnette October 15, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    I enjoyed my tour in VIET NAM, 7/66 thru 4/67. I was on board the USS TUTUILA (ARG-4)
    It was a difficult tour, but enjoyable. We helped the South Vietnamize people attain their goal of freedom. When our nation left they were taken back.

  4. Richard Jones October 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Blue water navy enlisted aircrewman aboard the USS AMERICA operating in A3skywarrior tankers. Our carrier was 22 miles from shore, but still had agent orange that had to be removed from the flight deck, and other planes that sat waiting to be catapulted. I reported all my information at the VA Temple Hospital. I was informed that there was no such aircraft carrier in the fleet. I gathered up all my information and returned the info to the person at Temple. The person who took my info, never reported anything else to me. I returned and was informed that nothing could be done because we were outside the 12 mile limit. The carrier was 22 miles away from the beach. At the present time I have bladder cancer. What do you think you can do for us Blue Water Guys.

  5. william g yurkinas October 15, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    I served aboard the USS Guadalupe AO32, the oldest ship in the Navy in 1973 and I know that I was exposed to asbestos and other toxic chemicals but that ship is not on your list. Have those deck logs disappeared or what?

    I was only 18 years old at the time and after one WESTPAC cruise the ship was decommissioned. My ship-mate and best friend back then passed away at only 53 years old from COPD and he never smoked a day in his life!

    I am now 64 years old and I have COPD and a heart condition. I was granted a 10% disability from you for wounds to my right foot. I am now on social security disability for the issues I mentioned above.

    The Social Security administration has helped me but you have not. Why am I still paying tax on my retirement benefits?

    Eagerly awaiting a reply.

    W. G. Yurkinas
    CPO, USN (RET)

  6. Buffalo Rick Galeener October 15, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    what a joke!

  7. Buffalo Rick Galeener October 15, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Then why have I not gotten my disability compensation reinstated? This is bullsht! I have a permanent disability caused by agent orange exposure according to the doctors who removed the tumor and muscles in my leg, but then cut off my compensation! The 2020 act has changed nothing!

  8. Richard Gallagher October 15, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    This article is poorly worded and is likely to cause confusion. The phrase “vessels that may have traveled within the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam” may lead veterans to believe that anyone who was aboard a ship that served in the combat zone is eligible for the presumption of exposure to herbicides. The article should say “vessels that may have traveled within the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam.” There is a defined boundary to the territorial waters of RVN. “Offshore waters” is a vague phrase and is undefinable on a map.

  9. Clifford Perkins October 15, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Curious how Blue Water Navy qualify for Agent Orange benefits when hundreds of Navy who were Boots-on-the-Ground have been turned away. Two tours in DaNang and no agent orange exposure? How’s that even possible?

  10. David Robert Lee October 15, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Well there’s a mystery solved. We never knew why Ft. Ord (Monterrey, CA and site of the Laguna Seca racecourse) was closed. It seemed just a part of the general trend in base closures (there is no USNAV presence left in the SF Bay Area whatsoever. From 7 Prominent Installations during the war, to zero = shocking). Nobody ever told the thousands of people who would “ord”inarily (couldn’t help it) show up for the races what they risked. It has, on the other hand, been 40 years since they shut it down (and 51 years since I attended) and the serious threat the soldiers and recruits faced has to be somewhat attenuated.

  11. Esra Sample October 15, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Filed my claim for Blue Water Navy Benefits On August 13, 2019. To date I have not received any conformation or denial for benefits from Blue Water exposure. I was in the Navy on the USS Forrestal in Vietnam waters in July 1967. Our ship caught fire on July 29th, 1967.

    [Editor: DO NOT publish your SSN or any other PII on the internet! You can track the status of your claim in eBenefits or at logging in at va.gov]

    • Richard Gallagher October 15, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      @Esra Sample

      If your claim is for Agent Orange exposure, you should be aware that the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 does not apply to Forrestal sailors because Forrestal never entered the territorial waters of RVN.

      However, if your claim for something that happened to you that is connected to the fire, that is a different situation.

  12. David Robert Lee October 15, 2020 at 11:39 am

    So what if they served in proximity to Vietnam? The flight deck is just as noisy, just as dangerous, just as stressful in the Tyrrhenian or Levantine Seas as it is in the South China Sea. We saw, up close, and near collision proximity (there was a collision between the Flag Kara cruiser and one of our escorts [long, semi-interesting story there, in which I figure prominently], just not us: CV-60) for an extended period: 91 days between port calls during the first Lebanon Crisis, a goodly portion of it cheek by jowl with the Black Sea Fleet, south of Cypress while deployed with VS-24 as an E-5 ASW aircrewman and Com/CMCO yeoman (yes, in fact, that IS a LT. billet).
    Blue Water Navy Claims! What a joke. If they are eligible for compensation, just for serving near, but not IN a war zone, then we (anyone embarked, or ship’s company in anything beyond or below sight of shore) ALL should be. What kind of BS is that? They’re special, are they? We lost 6 aircraft and a more than 12 lives including 1 maybe two man-overboard suicidal jumpers ( it was 46 years ago, I have forgotten which) during that cruise. It was so bad that we had a fleet wide Safety Stand-Down. The unofficial cruise patch (too on the nose to avoid being written up if you displayed it) showed a lightning bolt extending from black cloud to a dead chicken on the ship’s deck. Talk about equal protection, and due process . . . Come ON!

  13. James Bliehall October 15, 2020 at 11:37 am

    22,000 claims acted upon in this year.
    I petitioned the VA 5 years ago for compensation due to my military related hearing loss and still it languishes in Washington, DC.
    I was an Airborne Weapons Systems Technician (32251F) from 1960-1964 on the twin engine F-101B and F102 fighter aircraft. We were afforded absolutely NO hearing protection in all those years. We stood next to running aircraft and loaded MB-1 nuclear weapons in mass load exercises more times than you could imagine.
    I submitted articles from the DOD, USAF, the USN and civilian organizations reliably showing how the 145dB noise level of just 1 engine (the F-101B had 2) would compromise your hearing later in life.
    Along with that we were all exposed to JP-4 aircraft fuel which is an additive component to hearing loss.
    The VA rejected my initial claim indicating it was “age dependent.” I filed an appeal and sit and wait.
    Happy for our Navy veterans.
    But I wonder if the VA will even admit it erred in rejecting mine, and some of my USAF veterans claims.
    James Bliehall
    444th & 59th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons

  14. ron October 15, 2020 at 11:04 am

    This total bullsh*t when sailors who spent their time 25-50+ miles offshore during the time in the Vietnam war. It’s not like they were exposed to the “Yellow Rain” like we were on a constant day by day bases, nor did any of them ever load this agent onto aircrafts like many did in the Air Force and Army. If any sailor spent anytime on shore duty then I can agree but to spend 100% of you time out at sea it’s crap. I was exposed during my time in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia so were does my denied filings get placed but these water babies get theirs! No its wrong.

    100% Disabled combat Vietnam Vet.

  15. Ed Merzlak October 15, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Why are you dismissing those veterans that went through basic training in Fort Ord in California, Fort McClellan in Alabama where this stuff was tested?

    Many of us myself included are dying of multiple myeloma from exposure to these herbicides including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD, a contaminant of Agent Orange).

    You do realize that Fort Ord was closed in 1980 due to the level of contaminants and today, 40 years later, is still not cleaned up.

    Admit it, pay for it, and let us die in peace

  16. Leroy McCaul October 15, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Far too long overdue! When are these officials going to make shore station admin/quarterdeck logs available also? There are numerous military personnel from surrounding shore commands who were sent to Vietnam on Temporary Duty Assignment (TDY/TAD) orders who cannot validate their “feet dry” presence in country. Command Assignment History logs documented the destination and duration of such assignments. It is difficult to understand why these documents have not been deemed important enough to record in such a vital period in America’s military history which cost 58,222 men and 8 women (Ellen Kershner on June 10 2020 in History) their lives.

  17. Curtis Frederick Wealti October 15, 2020 at 6:51 am

    I was a Seabee, on the ground in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, stationed at Dong Ha, Phu Loc and Danang. How does this “Blue Water Navy” bill affect me? Should I be doing something?

    • Richard Gallagher October 15, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      @ Curtis Frederick Wealti

      The Blue Water Navy bill affects you if you have one or more of the diseases that the VA presumes were caused by exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange. If you have one of those diseases, you should file a claim. The bill has no effect upon veterans who may be claiming hearing loss, PTSD, etc.

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