A recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives has made it more likely that Navy Veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam will be able to get the benefits they deserve. If the bill makes it through the Senate, Navy veterans will be able to take advantage of the same veteran benefits that ground troops have access to. These benefits are offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Vietnam veterans suffering from diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.
The passing of the bill by the House serves as a reminder of the damage done to military members by Agent Orange—many of whom are unaware that they can get much-needed financial assistance from the VA for their injuries.
Setting Things Right with the Blue Water Navy Bill
The overwhelming support for the bill, which passed with a vote of 382-0, demonstrates the current attitude of the country towards veterans injured by Agent Orange. Referred to as the “Blue Water Navy Bill”, the legislation is designed to extend benefits that were taken away in 2002.
Ground troops have had access to benefits for some time now, but the legislature has gone back and forth on the necessity of giving the same benefits to Navy personnel. This is unfortunate and, in hindsight, certainly seems ill-advised—especially when one examines the facts of Navy exposure.
Heavy Agent Orange Exposure for the Navy
Agent Orange was sprayed indiscriminately across the vast majority of the country of Vietnam, including most of its waterways, rivers, lakes, streams and coastlines. While the exposure of ground personnel was obvious, a little further digging shows that the Navy received plenty of exposure as well. In fact, many Navy personnel received even more exposure than ground troops.
While the exposure of ground personnel was obvious, a little further digging shows that the Navy received plenty of exposure as well.
Much of the Agent Orange that saturated the waterways of Vietnam flowed out into the harbors and coastal areas. It is standard practice for each Navy vessel to pull water from the immediate area surrounding the ship and desalinate that water for consumption by the crew. While the desalination process was excellent at removing salt, it did nothing to remove dioxin and the other herbicides that make up Agent Orange. Navy crews used water with a higher concentration of Agent Orange than most other service members. They drank, cooked and cleaned with this water, all without being aware that it was contaminated.
Use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Military sprayed powerful herbicides, including Agent Orange, across the Vietnam countryside to destroy ground cover and enemy crops. It is estimated that the U.S. used around 11 million gallons of Agent Orange throughout the conflict. The massive amount of herbicides used and the blanket distribution meant that the chemicals were almost impossible to avoid for troops and locals alike.
Agent Orange Exposure Linked to Multiple Diseases
Agent Orange was effective at killing vegetation. Unfortunately, it also had serious detrimental effects on human health. It was determined that the chemicals in Agent Orange, particularly dioxin, contributed to a variety of serious diseases. The list of conditions related to Agent Orange exposure encompasses a variety of conditions and includes type II diabetes, testicular cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s disease.
Dangers Acknowledged by V.A.
The dangers of Agent Orange exposure to military personnel were finally acknowledged by Congress with the passing of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. With the passing of the Act, it became possible for veterans to seek benefits for the damage done to them through their service and exposure. According to the Act, if a veteran was on the ground—even for a single day—in Vietnam during the period between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, it should be possible to get benefits for illnesses related to Agent Orange.The dangers of Agent Orange exposure to military personnel were finally acknowledged by Congress with the passing of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. With the passing of the Act, it became possible for veterans to seek benefits for the damage done to them… Click To Tweet
Understanding V.A. Benefits for Agent Orange
The amount of benefits varies depending on the severity of the illness. One may get just a little assistance if the illness is minor and has only a small impact on the day-to-day life of the individual. In contrast, if the illness is quite debilitating and makes it difficult or impossible to lead a normal life, then the benefits are likely to be much higher.
When a veteran starts to receive benefits, he or she will continue to get those benefits for as long as the illness exists. When the veteran passes away, his or her spouse will continue to receive those benefits.
Qualifying for Agent Orange Benefits
One of the major benefits of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 is how it streamlines the eligibility process for veterans affected by Agent Orange. Qualifying for benefits is relatively straightforward. One must have served in Vietnam sometime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. Service can include visiting from a ship or being onboard a ship that was on the inland waterways of the country. Or, one had to have been in the proximity of the Korean demilitarized zone sometime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971.
It is also possible to qualify even if one was not serving in Vietnam specifically. For instance, those who were on military bases in Thailand can get benefits. More information on eligibility is available on the V.A. website.
Veterans Deserve Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure
Veterans of the conflict in Vietnam sacrificed much for their country. It is only right that they are taken care of for the injuries they sustained due to their service. The Agent Orange Act and the new Blue Water Bill are steps in the right direction—one where veterans get the support they deserve from their country.