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Veterans Law

Blue Water Navy Veterans: What Conditions Qualify for VA Disability Benefits?

Jenna Zellmer

February 28, 2019

Updated: November 20, 2023

Blue Water Navy map

Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure

Historically, VA has excluded Blue Water Navy veterans from its presumption of herbicide agent exposure based on a decision issued in the case Haas v. Peake.  However, on January 29, 2019, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, overruling Haas to include Blue Water Navy veterans under the presumption of exposure.  As a result, thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans will now be afforded the same presumption of exposure to herbicides as veterans who served “boots on the ground” in Vietnam.  These Blue Water Navy veterans will now have an easier path to getting the benefits to which they are rightfully entitled.

In order to be eligible for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure and qualify for VA disability benefits, Blue Water Navy veterans must meet the following criteria:

  • You served within twelve nautical miles seaward of the demarcation line of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975; and
  • You are currently diagnosed with one of the medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure acknowledged by VA

Blue Water Navy Veterans and VA’s Presumption of Service Connection

A presumption of service connection is when VA presumes a veteran’s condition was caused by his or her military service, usually due to a certain exposure.  The presumption of service connection replaces the element of service connection that requires veterans to have an in-service event or symptom that caused their disability.  In this case, Blue Water Navy veterans who develop a qualifying condition will no longer have to prove that the condition is related to their exposure to Agent Orange.  Instead, VA will presume that the condition was caused by Agent Orange.

Qualifying Conditions Associated with Agent Orange Exposure

VA presumes the following conditions are associated with exposure to Agent Orange:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
  • Chloracne
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type II
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease (including Coronary Artery Disease, stable and unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death)
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers, including Lung Cancer
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and mesothelioma)

Importantly, these are the same presumptive conditions that apply to Vietnam veterans with “boots-on-the-ground.”

Vietnam-era Veterans with Service in Thailand

Unfortunately, the recent decision in Procopio v. Wilkie does not affect Vietnam-era veterans who served in Thailand.  This group of veterans is still not included in VA’s presumption of exposure.  However, VA recognizes that herbicides were used along the perimeter of certain Royal Thai Air Force Bases in Thailand.  As such, Thailand veterans can still file a claim for service-connected compensation for medical conditions based on Agent Orange exposure.  In doing so, they will have to show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during their service, and have a current diagnosis of one of the above-mentioned presumptive conditions.

Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD for a Free Case Evaluation

If you are a Blue Water Navy veteran who is suffering from a condition related to Agent Orange exposure, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help.  For a free case evaluation, call 800-544-9144 today.

About the Author

Bio photo of Jenna Zellmer

Jenna joined CCK in January of 2014 as an appellate attorney, was named Managing Attorney in September of 2019, and now serves as a Partner at the firm. Her law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Jenna