VA benefits for Blue Water Navy vets

Which Blue Water Navy Ships Were Exposed to Agent Orange?

During the Vietnam War, sailors in the Blue Water Navy were service members who never stepped foot on Vietnamese soil. However, these sailors were on ships that sailed in the country's 12-mile territorial waters, and also docked in Vietnam.

Through these actions, they were exposed to the deadly toxin, Agent Orange. This tactical defoliant was used by the U.S. military to destroy dense vegetation, plants, and tree leaves that the Viet Cong and Vietnamese troops used for cover. Because the Blue Water Navy sailors never had “boots on the ground,” the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) later denied them disability benefits for Agent Orange-associated diseases.

In early 2019, a federal court ruling in the case Procopio v. Wilkie gave over 90,000 Blue Water Navy vets “presumption of service-connection” for medical conditions linked to Agent Orange. If you're a Blue Water Navy vet and have a disease on the list linked to Agent Orange exposure, you may be eligible for VA benefits if you served on a ship or boat that was within 12 nautical miles of the shore of Vietnam.  Veterans that were on boats or ships for  the Inshore Fire Support Division 93 or the Mobile Riverine Force were typically within this 12 miles of Vietnam

Other ships that were typically within 12 miles are listed below. These vessels were usually in inland waterways, which include the rivers, canals, estuaries, delta areas, and enclosed bays. Here's a short list of those designations:

  • AGP (Assault Group Patrol/Patrol Craft Tender)
  • LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized)
  • LCU (Landing Craft, Utility)
  • LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel)
  • LST (Landing Ship, Tank)
  • PBR (Patrol Boat, River)
  • PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast or Swift Boat)
  • PG (Patrol Gunboat)
  • STABS (Strike Assault Boats)
  • WAK (Cargo Vessel)
  • WHEC (High Endurance Cutter)
  • WLB (Buoy Tender)
  • WPB (Patrol Boat)
  • YFU (Harbor Utility Craft)

Be sure to check the list of the boats and ships exposed to Agent Orange to see if you might be eligible for VA benefits. It’s possible that even if your ship isn’t listed, you may still qualify for disability.

The PACT Act of 2022 Expands Agent Orange Presumption to More Vietnam War Era Veterans

For Navy veterans of the Vietnam era, you have a presumption of exposure if you meet at least one of these service requirements.

Between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you must have served for any length of time in at least one of these locations:

  • Aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or
  • On a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia

Or you served in at least one of these locations that the VA has added based on the PACT Act:

  • In the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 30, 1980, or
  • On a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977

Call Cuddigan Law

If you served in the Blue Water Navy and believe your disease is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. You may be eligible for VA benefits, and we can help you determine if your service meets the requirements for disability.

Call Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405 or email us at [email protected]Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.  

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska