Thousands of Navy veterans to receive health care and disability benefits the VA previously denied

8 On Your Side

Fight with VA to restore benefits intensified when 8 On Your Side got involved

PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Navy veteran Mike Kvintus of Port Richey got some good news.

Over the new year, the VA finally began processing and approving benefits for Vietnam Veterans who served in the Navy and claim they were exposed to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.

“We have some of our members that notified us that they was awarded their claims already,” Kvintus explained. “I’m ecstatic, my wife’s ecstatic.”

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Mike Kvintus has waited years for benefits he believes he earned.

Mike credits 8 On Your Side with helping to sway Congress to approve a bill restoring benefits the VA stripped from 90,000 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans in 2002.

“We’ve had thousands and thousands of emails and calls to Congress but without people like you, and WFLA 8, you guys made this possible too and I thank you and I truly mean that,” Mike added.

The military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnam’s jungle growth. The defoliant seeped into streams and rivers, then into Vietnam’s harbors, bays, and territorial waters.

American ships turned the contaminated seawater into potable, using it to drink, cook and bathe.

An Australian study found the distillation process didn’t eliminate the herbicide’s chemicals, it enhanced them, exposing sailors to a more potent poison.

In 2016, Mike Kvintus reached out to 8 On Your Side to investigated how he and others were poisoned at sea.

8 On Your Side made several calls to members of Congress to find out where they stood on the issue.

Nearly 4 years and 2 dozen reports later, Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. President Trump signed it.

That means after years of routine denials, the VA must now presume that if sailors who were on ships in Vietnam’s territorial waters develop any of these 14 diseases or illnesses:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias
  • Chloracne
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkison’s Disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas

They are service-connected, making veterans eligible for health and disability benefits.

The VA then put a hold on processing claims that lasted several months.

A federal court ordered that the VA’s stay could go no longer than January 1st, 2020.

According to Mike Kvintus to qualify, veterans must show proof that they were on ships that were in Vietnam’s territorial waters by providing ship deck logs.

Kvintus, who now serves as the secretary for Military Veterans Advocacy, says MVA has many of them.

MVA led the fight for benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans.

The new legislation exempts veterans who served on ships outside of the territorial sea. MVA Chairman of the Board John Wells says the organization is reviewing options and may take the VA to court over the limitation.

Military-Veterans Advocacy, in conjunction with our Blue Water Navy And Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, will conduct a seminar for veterans, VSOs and veterans attorneys on Feb. 1, at the Marriott Westshore in Tampa.

You can register to attend the event here.

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

Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com

PREVIOUS COVERAGE FROM STEVE ANDREWS:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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