Vietnam Navy Veterans to Get Agent Orange Benefits

Last September, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, then chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, asked the VA to reconsider claims from veterans who served in Vietnam’s rivers and inland waterways, or who docked in Vietnam, known as Brown Water Veterans, who are claiming to have sustained illnesses/disabilities as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. The U.S. military used an estimated 20 million gallons of the dioxin-based herbicide during the Vietnam war. Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to provide disability benefits for Vietnam War veterans who developed diseases linked to Agent Orange. In 2002, the rules changed requiring veterans to prove that they had stepped foot in Vietnam, the “boots to ground” requirement or that they were “Brown Water veterans”. In order to prove exposure, VA was required to review the deck logs for the respective ships the veterans were stationed on. As such, VA is reviewing all cases to determine whether the requisite deck log search was conducted. As of April 2011, VA had re-examined about 6,700 of the 16,820 cases Akaka had called to the agency’s attention. Many of these claimants will now receive disability compensation and medical care for illnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure. The VA’s review of these claims is continuing.