Public Law 116-23
A threshold must be met per regulations of Federal Veterans Laws Rules and Regulations; For veterans and or their dependents to receive what is generally known as “veterans’ benefits” certain qualifying factors must be met. Veterans need to have a discharge other than dishonorable to begin the claims process. This is why it is important for those seeking benefits to obtain assistance with a VA qualified representative. As a Certified Claims Agent with the Office of General Counsel in Washington DC, I am honored to share this story of one my veteran’s journey with his claim for benefits.
Mr. CH is a veteran of the Vietnam War, honorably serving from 1967 to 1971, in the United States Navy. We filed a claim for him in December of 2013 for his heart condition and his diabetes relating to his exposure of agent orange during his service aboard the USS Wallace Lind. We submitted evidence to support his claim including a statement from the veteran that he was on special missions aboard whaleboats, that they showered and drank the contaminated water. We submitted deck logs showing he was in shallow water during the conflict. All to be denied because it wasn’t shown in his records that he stepped foot on the ground! Unlike Brown Water Navy Vietnam Veterans; that never set foot on Vietnamese soil, serving on ships that operated outside Vietnam, VA had conceded they were exposed due to their inland missions, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans were not afforded this luxury as of yet.
We continued to follow all legal avenues to appeal the continued denials of the veteran’s request for service connection. It only stood to reason the veteran’s issues were related to his time in service. After all they mirrored the presumed conditions related to herbicide exposure, yet VA would not relate these same conditions for our Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. We took his claim all the way to the Board of Veterans Appeals, only to have them uphold the other decisions. This denial was issued Sept of 2018, 5 years after the initial claim!
In the meantime, a bill was making the rounds on behalf of those who honorably served known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of February,2019, Public Law 116-23. In May of 2019 the House passed this law! In June 2019 the Senate also passed it and on June 25, 2019 President Donald J. Trump signed the bill into law! So, in February 2019 we again requested service connection for Mr. CH. I am happy to report a new decision was received in January 2020, 7 years later, granting his request for service connection! Mr. CH was awarded a large back reward and a monthly award going forward! These benefits change lives! I am so honored to be a small part of our veterans receiving their rightful benefits!
Tammie L. Harrison
VA Accredited Claims Agent