The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has agreed to review, by a panel of three judges, the issue of whether veterans who served aboard vessels in Da Nang Harbor during the Vietnam War are entitled to a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange.
VA rules allow veterans who served either
- on land in Vietnam or
- aboard vessels operating in the inland waterways of Vietnam a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange.
However, this presumption does not apply to veterans who served in vessels off the coast of Vietnam, including in Da Nang Harbor. This means that Blue Water veterans must prove to VA that they were actually exposed to Agent Orange, which can be an extremely challenging task. It’s necessary to prove exposure, though, because veterans recognized as having been exposed to Agent Orange have an easier time winning claims for conditions commonly associated with Agent Orange exposure, such as ischemic heart disease and diabetes mellitus. Despite strong scientific evidence showing that Blue Water veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, VA has refused to change its position.
Gray v. McDonald
In Gray v. McDonald, No. 13-3339, a veteran who served aboard a ship that was in Da Nang Harbor was denied VA benefits because, according to VA, he could not prove that he was exposed to Agent Orange. The veteran appealed to the Court, arguing essentially that there is no basis in law for VA’s position that Da Nang Harbor does not constitute an inland waterway and that VA’s decision in this case violated his right to equal protection.
The Court’s review of the case by a panel of three judges is significant. Panel cases are relatively rare at the Court, and its agreement to review by a panel suggests that the Court may offer some new insight into this issue.
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