For Texas naval personnel who served in Vietnamese territorial waters during the conflict, additional benefits are now possible. A recent federal court decision opened up a possibility for disability benefits and medical care due to Agent Orange-related sickness.
For many years the Department of Veterans Affairs denied benefits related to Agent Orange exposure unless the vet served on land or in waterways inland. Agent Orange was the main vegetation-destroying chemical used during the war. Since the end of the conflict, thousands of veterans experienced various illnesses that were eventually traced to Agent Orange exposure. Since that time, more than 650,000 vets have received disability benefits for these illnesses. That figure stands to grow substantially due to the court ruling.
The agency's longstanding policy of refusing these benefits for those assigned to offshore naval vessels was challenged in court by various veterans groups. Lawsuits were brought on behalf of more than 90,000 service members.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard the case and found in favor of the Blue Water Navy claimants. The VA has not filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court and as of yet, it is not known if an appeal is forthcoming. If is does, it must file for a stay of the order. Until then, the claimants are permitted to file for benefits based on exposure.
Disabled veterans often experience many obstacles in applying for disability benefits. These obstacles include a myriad of regulations, reams of forms and evidence of eligibility to collect. For some, the task can be overwhelming. At these times, an experienced attorney can often be of assistance in ensuring that the claims contain all necessary information and are filed within the required time period.