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Clinton County Veterans Service Agency Director Discusses New Agent Orange Benefits Eligibility

U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam
U.S. Army/Public Domain
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U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam

On January 1st , for the first time Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans and/or their survivors will be eligible for benefits for exposure to Agent Orange.  Clinton County Veterans Service Agency Director Steve Bowman tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that eligible veterans and dependents who had previously been denied need to apply before the end of 2019 or risk losing retroactive benefits.
“Agent Orange was a chemical that was sprayed in Vietnam as a defoliant between 1962 and 75. And Congress intended that all veterans that served in Vietnam be eligible for benefits under the Agent Orange Act. The VA inappropriately took that intent and twisted it around and excluded Navy veterans that served aboard ship in the deep waters offshore, excluded those veterans from  filing claims for Agent Orange-related disabilities. This court case that took place last year (Alfred Procopio, Jr. v. Robert Wilkie) rights that wrong and now makes all those Navy veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange now presumed to have been exposed. So therefore, if they're diagnosed with any of the conditions that are related to Agent Orange, they're eligible for disability compensation through the VA. This also extends to those surviving spouses and surviving children. The reality of what this, what we're doing with this and the timing of this is: if a veteran had filed a claim say in in 1985 or 1990 for Agent Orange-related disabilities the VA would have simply denied them then. If we submit that paperwork before the 31st of December to the VA, then the VA must under law go all the way back when that original claim was filed, and potentially pay retroactive benefits all the way back to that original date. If you file your paperwork after the first of January your effective date will be one January 2020.”

More information and an extended conversation with Clinton County Veterans Service Agency Director Steve Bowman are here:

steve_bowman_extended.mp3
Extended conversation with Clinton County Veterans Service Agency Director Steve Bowman

Information on Agent Orange Benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp

H.R.299 - Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/299/text
 

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