In April 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to review its policy with regard to "Blue Water Veterans." As noted in my 2011 post, Blue Water veterans are navy personnel who served off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but whose boots did not touch the ground or who worked on ships that did not enter inland waterways. For years, Blue Water veterans have been denied benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, despite their contention that they were exposed to the herbicide via sea water used aboard ships for cooking, drinking, laundering, etc. Agent Orange has been associated with a variety of ailments, including cancer, heart disease, birth defects and neurological problems.
In February 2016, citing a lack of conclusive evidence linking ailments among Blue Water Veterans to Agent Orange, the V.A. said it was standing by its existing policy. You can read the V.A.'s newest fact sheet as it related to Blue Water Veterans and Agent Orange here.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) has backed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act that would give these veterans access to benefits. "Young sailors risked their lives during the Vietnam War, unaware that decades later, they and their children and grandchildren would still feel the toxic effects of exposure," he said in response to the recent ruling. "Veterans who served offshore and in the harbors of Vietnam were exposed and deserve the presumption of service connection for Agent Orange-related disease."
Despite this most recent setback, Blue Water Veterans and their advocates say they will continue to push for benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991.