Starting, January 1, 2020, veterans can get TDIU for Blue Water Agent Orange Exposure.
Blue Water update
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used herbicides such as Agent Orange to clear trees and plants. Unfortunately, herbicide exposure has caused a myriad of health problems to Vietnam veterans. By passing the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the government conceded a relationship between herbicide exposure and 14 medical conditions. However, VA interpreted the law to exclude Blue Water veterans of the Vietnam War. Veterans advocates have sought an update ever since.
For over 20 years after the Agent Orange Act, VA split disabled Vietnam veterans into 2 distinct groups:
- Those who either set foot in Vietnam or served on boats patrolling inland waterways (also known as “Brown Water”), and
- Those who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam (also known as “Blue Water” veterans).
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, Agent Orange Exposure
This all changed on January 1, 2020, when the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 took effect. For the first time, Blue Water veterans are entitled to the same presumptions as those who served inland. In addition, Blue Water veterans who could not support themselves due to Agent Orange exposure now have a path to TDIU.
What is TDIU, Exactly?
TDIU is a special benefit for veterans who cannot support themselves due to service-connected disabilities. To qualify, a veteran must meet certain requirements. First, a veteran must prove that he cannot earn a living because of service-connected disabilities. Second, those disabilities must meet the percentage requirements. If the veteran has only one service-connected disability, it must be rated 60% or higher. If the veteran has more than one service-connected disability, then at least one must be rated 40% or higher. Also, there must be “sufficient additional disability to bring the combined rating” to 70% or higher. 38 C.F.R. § 4.16(a). These rules apply regardless of whether the disabilities are due to Blue Water Agent Orange Exposure.
TDIU – Total disability and individual unemployability
Also known as Unemployability, TDIU pays the same monthly amount as a 100% disability rating. Under 2019 rates, VA will pay TDIU recipients a minimum of $3,057.13 per month tax free. Before you can get TDIU for Blue Water Agent Orange exposure, you have to have a qualifying disability at a high enough rating.
Agent Orange is not a disability in of itself
Agent Orange exposure is not a disability in of itself; it causes disabilities. If you don’t have a diagnosed disability yet, then any VA claim would be premature. If you suspect you have a disability, then ask your doctor to confirm.
- Chronic B-cell leukemia,
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
- Multiple myeloma,
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
- Prostate cancer,
- Respiratory cancers, including lung cancer,
- Soft tissue sarcomas,
- Amyloid light-chain (AL amyloidosis),
- Diabetes mellitus type 2,
- Ischemic heart disease,
- Parkinson’s disease,
- Peripheral neuropathy, and
- Porphyria cutanea tarda.
By law, VA can only assign up to a 30% rating for chloracne and Parkinson’s disease. For the 12 other conditions, VA may assign ratings of 60% or higher if the symptoms are severe enough.
A few examples of how VA would decide TDIU claims based on Blue Water Agent Orange exposure:
Case Study 1: VA 100% blue water agent orange exposure
A Blue Water Vietnam veteran served on the USS Intrepid CVS-11 during the applicable time period. About 25 years after service, his doctor diagnosed him with congestive heart failure. As a result of the congestive heart failure, the veteran was forced to stop working. The veteran filed a claim for TDIU and congestive heart failure secondary to Agent Orange Exposure. Because congestive heart failure fits the definition of ischemic heart disease, VA would likely grant a 100% rating. VA would then declare TDIU moot because it pays the same as a 100% rating.
Case Study 2: TDIU blue water agent orange exposure
A Vietnam-era Navy veteran served on the USS Bronstein DE-1037 during the period. About 15 years after service, he developed chronic b-cell leukemia. As a result, he stopped working and hired a full-time home healthcare aide. He filed a claim for TDIU and b-cell leukemia secondary to Blue Water Agent Orange exposure. Here, VA would either grant the leukemia at 100% or grant TDIU.
Case Study 3: TDIU blue water agent orange exposure
A Vietnam-era Navy vet served on the USS Ajax AR-6. Due to peripheral neuropathy in both legs (rated 20% each) and residuals of prostate cancer (rated at 60%), he was forced to retire at 46 years old. His combined rating is 70% overall. The day after his retirement, he files a claim for TDIU. Because he meets all the criteria, VA would likely grant TDIU effective the last day he worked.
What If VA Denied My Claim?
Keep fighting! After fighting for over 20 years, Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans are finally eligible for the same presumptions as those who served inland. VA’s previous denial does not necessarily mean that you don’t deserve benefits. VA may have misunderstood the law or overlooked evidence. Alternatively, you might need just one more piece of evidence to complete the puzzle. VA’s complex rules can make any veteran’s head spin. But the experts at Disability Help Group can guide you through the process.
Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652
Has VA ever denied your Agent Orange exposure claim because you are a Blue Water Navy veteran? You may be entitled to significant compensation. Contact us now for a free consultation.
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- What is VA Permanent and Total Disability?
- Can I Work and Get TDIU?
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