TRAINING LETTER 10-06
Adjudicating Disability Claims Based on Herbicide Exposure from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Veterans of the Vietnam Era
Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits Administration
Washington, D.C. 20420
All VA Regional Offices
Training Letter 10-06
SUBJ: Adjudicating Disability Claims Based on Herbicide Exposure from U.S.
Navy and Coast Guard Veterans of the Vietnam Era
The Compensation and Pension (C&P) Service is providing the following information and guidelines in order to promote regional office awareness, consistency, and fairness in the processing of disability claims based on herbicide exposure from Veterans with service in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard during the Vietnam era.
...In order for the presumption of exposure to be extended to a Blue Water Navy Veteran, development must provide evidence that the Veteran’s ship operated temporarily on the inland waterways of Vietnam or that the Veteran’s ship docked to the shore or a pier. In claims based on docking, a lay statement that the Veteran personally went ashore must be provided. Since there is no way to verify which crewmembers of a docked ship may have gone ashore, C&P Service has determined that the Veteran’s lay statement is sufficient. This is in keeping with 38 U.S.C. § 1154, which states that consideration shall be given to the places, types, and circumstances of a Veteran’s service, and with 38
5 VA TRAINING LETTER 10-06: Adjudicating Disability Claims Based on Herbicide
Exposure from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Veterans of the Vietnam Era
C.F.R. §3.159(a)(2), which states that lay evidence is competent if it is provided by a person who has knowledge of facts or circumstances and conveys matters that can be observed and described by a lay person. In claims based on docking, the circumstances of service have placed the Veteran in a position where going ashore was a possibility and the Veteran, by virtue of being there, is competent to describe leaving the ship and going ashore. The circumstances also establish credibility unless there is evidence to the contrary.
...service aboard a ship that anchored temporarily in an open deep water harbor or port is not sufficient
...However, evidence that a claimant served as a coxswain aboard a ship at anchorage, along with a statement from the Veteran of going ashore, may be sufficient to extend the presumption of exposure.
Claims based on statements that exposure occurred because herbicides were stored or transported on the Veteran’s ship, or that the Veteran was exposed by being near aircraft that flew over Vietnam or equipment used in Vietnam, do not qualify for the presumption of exposure.
READ ON: Training Letter 10-06