TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For 17 years the answer that 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans got from the VA was “no.”

No, you were not exposed to a poisonous herbicide known as Agent Orange, so “No” you are not eligible for disability or health care benefits.

Momentum shifted 3 years ago when 8 On Your Side exposed this injustice.

Mike Kvintus brought the issue to our attention. Mike, a Navy veteran, love this country.

“I would fight for this country today,” he told us back in 2016.

Mike has fought the VA for years.  

He told 8 On Your Side about being aboard the U.S.S. Buchanan in 1966, in Da Nang harbor when the military sprayed the area with Agent Orange.

“The plume covered the harbor,” Mike remembered.

He recalled how his ship and others turned ocean water into fresh, for consumption by the crew and how he now suffers illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.

And how the VA summarily denied his the claims of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans because they never stepped foot in Vietnam.

Following our reports that we called “Poisoned at Sea”, Blue Water Navy veterans rallied outside VA facilities across the country demanding change.

3-years-ago hardly anyone had ever heard of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans.  

Now according to Military Veterans Advocacy Executive Director, John Wells, BWN is a national movement.

“Without Steve Andrews, I don’t think we would’ve got the national publicity we asked for,” Mr. Wells said.  “You were a major asset, someone we could always county on to push this through.”

Change happened this year when a federal court ruled Navy veterans are absolutely entitled to the same benefits as those who served on the ground in Vietnam.

According to John Wells that should change a lot for Mike and others.

“Well he should be entitled to complete compensation,” Mr. Wells stated. “My estimate is that it’s going to go up to 100% or pretty close, as well as medical benefits through the VA hospital.” 

Then Congress rushed to pass a bill providing benefits to Blue Water Navy vets, and according to John Wells, eliminated some ground gained in court.

“Everybody’s patting themselves on the back while 55,000 veterans potentially are going to lose coverage that they gained,” Mr. Wells explained.

So a fight that should be over isn’t.

John Wells plans to continue fighting for those Blue Water Navy veterans who were excluded by Congress.  He urges veterans to file for benefits before January.

He also plans to continue working for benefits for all victims of military toxic exposure including those exposed on Guam and from burn pits in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

If you know of something that should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com