Nearly half of the more than 69,000 claims for "Blue Water Navy" Agent Orange benefits have been processed, and about 71% of those have thus far been approved for more than $664 million in retroactive benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act signed into law by President Donald Trump in June 2019 extended Agent Orange benefits already in effect for veterans who served on land or the inland waterways of Vietnam to veterans who served on ships that came within 12 nautical miles of the Vietnam coast.
"As of Sept. 30, VA has processed 34,415 [48%] of 69,570 claims received, of which 24,328 [71%] have been granted -- awarding more than $664 million in retroactive benefits to eligible veterans and families," officials said in the Monday release.
Those whose claims have not been granted can resubmit them with added documentation or can ask for a review of the initial claim, said Chris Slawinski, executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association.
He said the main reasons for a claim not being granted would be a lack of documentation on the sailor's service record or lack of medical records.
"VA will continue to get the word out via our social media channels, public service announcements and Veterans Service Organizations -- to ensure every veteran who is eligible applies as soon as possible," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.
To aid in claims, the VA also collaborated with the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize all Navy and Coast Guard deck logs for ships with known Vietnam service to make the information available at the National Archives Catalog.
More information on Agent Orange Exposure and benefits can be found by calling 800-827-100, and also can be found here.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.