‘Blue water’ Vietnam-era vets may be eligible for benefits

By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A new extension of veterans’ benefits nationwide could soon include some 90,000 Vietnam veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam.

     The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 could bring healthcare and compensation benefits to those sailors who served on ships during the war. Research has shown that those service members were also exposed to the harmful effects of Agent Orange/herbicide exposure not just those who served inland.

     For years, blue water Navy veterans have fought the Department of Veterans Affairs for healthcare and compensation benefits. A new federal law may ensure that these veterans get the benefits they are entitled to.

     Jones County Veterans Affairs Administrator Susan Yario is asking that (blue water) Vietnam veterans in Jones County contact her immediately concerning this new development.

     “The law is changing because there is so much demand,” Yario said of the fight. “So many people who served on the ships are having medical issues.”

     However, Yario makes clear that “exposure to herbicide/Agent Orange is not a diagnosis.” For a list of VA-presumed herbicide exposure diseases, visit: www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/. Veterans may be eligible for VA benefits for these diseases.

     Yario said blue water veterans who previously applied for healthcare benefits but were denied should re-apply this time around. Blue water veterans who are ill should also apply.

     “You can re-apply for compensation claims,” explained Yario.

     Before now, the VA automatically presumed that any veteran who served in-country Vietnam was exposed to herbicides. However, it’s been shown that the tens of thousands of sailors who honorably served on ships stationed offshore may have been exposed as the chemicals spilled into the waterways. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 extends the presumption of exposure of Agent Orange to those veterans.

     “They’re expanding that out to a 12-mile range,” said Yario. “So many Vietnam veterans who served in the Navy suffered and have medical conditions (possibly associated with their time near Vietnam).”

     You can contact Ms. Yario at 319-462-5311. The Jones County Veterans Affairs Office is located at 105 Broadway Place, Suite 13 in Anamosa. 

 

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