Vietnam-era Navy veterans appear to be set to claim disability benefits related to Agent Orange exposure.
The Department of Justice will drop its appeal of a federal court decision awarding benefits to the so-called "blue water" veterans, the Military Times reported this week. According to a filing with the Supreme Court, officials will not argue for overturning the January decision that undid the Veterans Affairs policy of denying benefits to those Navy veterans.
Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991 in order to provide some financial relief to veterans who suffered long-term health impacts from exposure to the defoliant herbicide used to thin out the Vietnamese jungle during the war. But the VA had denied claims to the "blue water" veterans, saying only soldiers present on the Vietnamese mainland could have interacted with Agent Orange.
Earlier this year, veteran Rex Settlemore told WCPO about watching from the U.S.S. Durham and U.S.S. Richard S. Edwards how close the chemical weapons were released to the shore. He said Agent Orange particles must have made it into the ocean water used by the crew, if not the air they breathed.
Settlemore said he believes early deaths were connected to the exposure.
"Ships who ingested the sea water, even if the sea water was distilled for fresh water on board, would still contain the Agent Orange contaminants," he said, citing an Australian Naval study.
Click here to listen to an episode of the Homefront podcast about the "blue water" veterans.