Veterans News: Agent Orange-related health coverage to expand
By Tammy Javenkoski
Oneida County Veterans Service Officer
For decades, the Veterans Administration (VA) did not acknowledge that “Blue Water” Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange. Blue Water refers to the waters off the coast of Vietnam, whereas, “Brown Water” refers to the inland waterways of Vietnam. Brown Water Navy veterans are eligible to receive service-connected disability benefits for the presumptive conditions of Agent Orange and are automatically eligible for VA health care. Blue Water Navy veterans are not, but that may be about to change.
On Jan. 29 a federal court overturned the law that denied Blue Water veterans of benefits. On March 26, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will not appeal the original court ruling that ordered them to provide disability and health care benefits for 90,000 veterans who served on Navy ships during the Vietnam War. This will likely pave the way for Blue Water Navy sailors and Marines to receive Agent Orange-related compensation and VA health care benefits.
Additionally, the VA is expected to announce in the next 90 days whether three additional Agent Orange-related health conditions are going to be added to the list of presumptive disabilities. Those conditions are hypothyroidism, bladder cancer and Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
Neither the benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans nor the three new presumptive conditions have been approved as of this writing but because I’m sure there are many veterans who would qualify for benefits if one or both of the potential changes happen, I think we should start filing disability claims. They may be denied at first until a final decision is made but if we file now, benefit payments could be retroactive.
We will not be able to file every claim expeditiously so in the interim, we can file an Intent to File (ITF). An ITF is a simple form you sign and we send to the VA and it notifies them you will be filing a claim. When you do file the formal claim, it will be retroactive back to the day the VA received the ITF as long as you file the formal claim within one year. An appointment is not required to sign an ITF but since we’re only a two-person office, it’s recommended you call to make sure we’ll be in the office.
For widows/widowers of veterans who would have met the above criteria had they not passed away, there may be survivor benefits for you. Please call the office so we can make that determination and set up an appointment, if necessary.
Tammy Javenkoski can be reached at 715-369-6127 or [email protected] Jason Dailey, assistant CVSO, can be reached at the same number or [email protected], or you can contact us via Facebook at www.facebook.com/oneidacvso.