TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Navy Veterans who served in the territorial waters of Vietnam are now presumed to have been exposed to herbicides such as the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.
After dozens of 8 On Your Side reports over a four-year period, Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, opening a door the VA closed shut on these veterans nearly two decades ago.
Military Veterans Advocacy along with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, two organizations that led the fight to force the change, are offering a workshop in Tampa on Saturday to help assist veterans and attorneys in filing claims for benefits.
“We have to make sure that all the veterans get their square shake on this,” said Mike Kvintus, the Military Veterans Advocacy National Secretary.
Mike served on the USS Buchanan during the war. The ship anchored in Da Nang Harbor, but he never went ashore.
According to Mike, the military sprayed the area with Agent Orange while the ship was in the harbor. He now suffers from at least two conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
The VA denied Mike’s claim for disability and health care, stating he was not in Vietnam so he was not exposed to herbicides.
The Buchanan turned saltwater into potable. The ship’s distillation process did not eliminate Agent Orange, an Australian study showed, the process enhanced it.
MVA estimates up to 90,000 personnel aboard ships were exposed.
The VA decided in 2002 only troops that were boots on the ground should presumed to have been exposed and routinely denied claims from Blue Water Navy Veterans.
Congress passed a law last year providing presumptive status Navy veterans who can show they were on ships that navigated within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam.
According to VA Under Deputy Secretary of Benefits Margarita Devlin, using ship logs of every Navy and Coast Guard vessel that served in Vietnam, the VA created a ship locating tool to help determine if veterans qualify for benefits.
“If a Veteran comes in and says, ‘I served in the Navy, I was in during Vietnam, and I was on this particular vessel’ and he gives us the name of the vessel, we can look it up, plug in the dates and it will tell us exact coordinates of where that vessel was located during the time it was in Vietnam and then we can decide quickly if they were in the 12 nautical mile limit,” Devlin told 8 On Your Side.
On Feb. 1 beginning at 8:15 a.m., Military Veterans Advocacy will assist veterans and attorneys in plotting locations of ships.
“We’re going to have people who will plot their deck logs for them and they’ll tell them if they’re within the 12 nautical miles, here’s the deck log you need to submit,” Mike KVintus explained.
For registration information go to: https://www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org/reception.html
If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Helpline at 1-800 338-0808.
Contact Steve Andrews at email@example.com
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