In November, the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled in favor of thousands of “blue water” Navy veterans and their survivors who argued that they’re being wrongly denied benefits as part of a deal reached by Congress last year.
Military Times’ recent article titled “New court ruling could give thousands of Vietnam vets and survivors overdue disability payouts” reports that under that plan, the Department of Veterans Affairs was required to grant presumptive benefit status for chemical defoliant exposure to veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam during that war.
Advocates for years had said that VA’s requirement of direct proof of exposure was hard to obtain since it has been decades since veterans were in the service. However, more than 22,500 blue water veterans or survivors have received VA benefits payouts since the beginning of 2020.
The new law didn’t require VA officials to go back and review cases denied before 2020. Vets who reapplied for benefits could have their cases considered again, but advocates argue that all of the cases should be resurfaced and reviewed by the VA.
In an interview with Military Times, Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence said no decision has been made by VA and Department of Justice officials on an appeal. However, he did remark that the lawsuit was discussed as part of VA’s preparations for the new benefits processing at the start of this year.
If the decision stands — either upon further appeal or if the government opts to simply accept the latest ruling — Lawrence said he’s confident the VA can start reviewing those cases without any significant disruption to operations.
President Trump signed legislation granting presumptive status for disability benefits to about 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the seas around Vietnam during the war. This concludes a long battle to get disability benefits more quickly for up to 90,000 Navy veterans who served in Vietnam.
VA has already paid out about $700 million in retroactive benefits related to the “blue water” veterans benefits in 2020.
Reference: Military Times (Nov. 16, 2020) “New court ruling could give thousands of Vietnam vets and survivors overdue disability payouts”