In January, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) ruled for a man named Procopio, holding that Congress did not intend to exclude the service members in the seas around Vietnam. Then in June, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act was signed into law, extending the Agent Orange presumption to those who served on ships off of the coast of Vietnam, known as blue water veterans. The sailors and Marines who were stationed and served offshore in Vietnam have been denied the Agent Orange presumption for years. The average Vietnam veteran is 73 years old, many are sick and have limited means; meaning, they eagerly await the VA’s response to their claims.
In July, Secretary Wilkie announced that per its right in the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, the VA is going to delay processing all claims from “blue water” veterans for another 5 months, until January 1, 2020. The VA claims that they need the extra time to ensure proper resources. The VA has estimated that as many as 560,000 veterans may be affected by the new blue water rule; however, many advocacy groups have argued that fewer than 90,000 are alive today.
How are people responding?
Military Veterans Advocacy, a veteran advocate organization has filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeals requesting that the VA be required to rescind the delay and take quicker action on these claims. Military Veterans Advocacy stressed in their complaint that some veterans won’t survive until 2020 and many more can’t afford to wait for benefits. They deem it “unconscionable to create more delays and stumbling blocks for veterans whose health and longevity are at stake.”
Additionally, twelve democrats from the House VA Committee question the decision to stay all claims without exception. “As we know, some blue water veterans are suffering from debilitating illnesses related to herbicide exposure and cannot wait until January for assistance.”
Furthermore, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Daines, and twelve other senators sent a letter to Secretary Wilkie requesting that the VA address the blue water claims “with as much urgency as possible.”
“Issuing a stay on the resolution of all benefits decisions will only needlessly delay the delivery of critical health care and contribute to an influx of claims that could be more appropriately managed if processors could begin their work now.”
There are many other organizations sending in letters encouraging the VA to lift the stay on the blue water claims. Only time will tell if Secretary Wilkie decides to lift the stay; however, organizations like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are encouraging veterans to file your claims now so as soon as the stay is lifted you can get your benefits. Bosley & Bratch has been helping veterans file their claims since 1995. If you’d like our experienced support please call 727-274-9223 or chat with us online for a free consultation.