A federal Court of Appeals panel voted in late January that “Blue Water Navy” Vietnam veterans qualify to receive disability benefits for any illnesses they’ve developed from their exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic chemical herbicide. One analyst notes that this ruling will ensure that thousands of veterans finally receive the disability benefits that those who are unable to work desperately need.
Blue Water Navy veterans, or those who served aboard destroyers and aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War, were previously told that they didn’t qualify to receive disability benefits because they never entered inland waterways or joined ground forces.
Up until this latest ruling, previous judges had interpreted the law to entitle only those veterans who served their country on the ground or within Vietnamese waters to receive these benefits. This meant that many Minnesota veterans who were suffering from illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure couldn’t claim them.
When Agent Orange first started being used during the Vietnam War, it’s unlikely that military officials knew just how dangerous it was. The Department of Veterans Affairs first acknowledged that the herbicide may have caused 15 different diseases that veterans were developing in large numbers starting in 1991.
Many of those Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange have since been diagnosed with conditions including type-2 diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate and lung cancer, early-onset peripheral neuropathy as well as certain types of leukemia and heart disease. The children of those soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange have been born with higher rates of spina bifida than others.
Now that the eligibility requirements have been clarified so that they extend coverage to Blue Water Navy veterans, it’s expected that as many as 70,000 new claims for disability benefits may be filed.
If you’ve developed an illness or injury related to your time spent serving your country, then a veterans’ issues attorney can help you apply for Social Security Disability benefits.