The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was signed into law on June 25, 2019 and takes effect on January 1, 2020. The law extends a presumption of herbicide exposure to Blue Water Navy Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam and the offshore waters. Two separate topics are affected by the Blue Water Navy Bill: herbicide exposure and VA home loans.
With the implementation of the Blue Water Navy Act on January 1, the VA will begin deciding claims to deliver eligible veterans and survivors their benefits. These claims will be processed with special priority to Blue Water Navy veterans over age 85 or those who have a terminal condition.
How Does the Blue Water Navy Act Affect Herbicide Exposure?
The Blue Water Navy Act authorizes the VA to extend the presumption of herbicide exposure, like Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits based on one of fourteen illnesses that are related to contact with herbicides.
What is Changing?
The Blue Water Navy Act contains multiple provisions that the VA must implement as a result:
- The VA must extend the presumption of herbicide exposure to veterans who served in the territorial waters of Vietnam, meaning within 12-nautical miles of shore. These veterans will be granted the same presumption of exposure as those who served with “boots on the ground” in Vietnam.
- The VA must extend the presumption of exposure to veterans who served near the Korean DMZ from September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971.
- The VA is required to identify military bases in Thailand where Agent Orange or other herbicides were sprayed within 180 days of the bill’s enactment.
- The VA is required to extend benefits to the children of veterans exposed to herbicides in Thailand born with Spina Bifida.
Which Conditions May be Caused by Herbicide Exposure?
Contact with herbicides such as Agent Orange may be related to several conditions which are referred to as Agent Orange presumptive diseases. Veterans may be eligible to receive disability compensation or benefits if they have one or more of the following conditions:
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas
- Amyloid Light-Chain Amyloidosis
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Porphyria Cutanea Tara
- How to Determine if Your Vessel is Within the 12-Nautical Mile Limit?
The VA partnered with the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to determine which U.S military vessels were in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. The VA has provided a list of Navy and Coast Guard Ships associated with service in Vietnam and exposure to herbicide agents.
How Does the Blue Water Navy Act Affect VA Home Loans?
In addition to the above changes, Congress also authorized the following changes to the VA Home Loan benefits beginning on January 1, 2020 for all eligible veterans:
- The VA now allows a no down payment option on guaranteed loans, regardless of the mortgage amount.
- The VA reduced the funding fee required for Reservists and National Guard borrows to align with the fee paid by “regular military” borrowers.
- Purple Heart recipients currently serving on active duty are exempt from paying the VA home loan funding fee.
- The VA removed the loan limit for Native American Veterans seeking to build or purchase a home on Federal Trust Land.
The VA has developed a toolkit with resources for veterans, survivors, dependents, and stakeholders. These resources can be accessed from the Blue Water Navy informational website.
If you’re a Blue Water Veteran, please contact us at 727-274-9223 or chat with us online for a free consultation. Bosley & Bratch has been helping veterans get the rating they deserve since 1995.