House lawmakers have expressed worries that even minor issues in the processing of “blue water” Vietnam veterans disability claims, could result in major delays for veterans who have already waited decades for these benefits.
Military Times reported in its recent article that asks “Will VA be ready to process new ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans benefits next year?” VA officials promise that they will start processing cases in January 2020. However, critics and veterans’ advocates want that to happen more quickly. Advocates have also demanded that the White House speed up the timeline for the benefits.
“These people have waited too long, and we finally have the legislation in place,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., ranking member on the House Veterans’ Affairs committee’s panel on disability assistance. “We need to get it done.”
Last summer, President Trump signed into law a bill that finalized presumptive benefits status for “blue water” veterans who served on vessels off the coast of Vietnam during the war.
Under Veterans Administration regulations, vets who served on land in the war are presumed to have toxic exposure related to spraying of the defoliant known as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. However, sailors on ships off the coast of Vietnam weren’t given the same concession.
However, the new law will see as many as 90,000 veterans become eligible for the new presumptive status, which will mean thousands of dollars in disability benefits each month.
This legislation let VA officials delay processing those cases until the beginning of 2020, even though some cases were already being considered due to a federal court ruling earlier in this year.
Advocates and some members of Congress have complained that the delay has put another unfortunate burden on veterans, who have suffered from Agent Orange exposure for decades.
In an update hearing before the committee, Veterans Affairs Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations, Willie Clark emphasized that the delay was required to get department systems prepared for the anticipated onslaught of blue water claims.
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