Monday, June 1, 2015

VA Blue Water Agent Orange lawsuit dismissed
Navy veterans who served primarily on warships off the coast of Vietnam during the war cannot sue for Agent Orange benefits, a federal judge ruled. "The court is sympathetic to the many challenges faced by veterans and their families," U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote 11 MAR. "However, Congress chose to shield VA benefits decisions from review or channel them into specific courts, and the court therefore has no jurisdiction to hear these claims."
U.S. forces sprayed Agent Orange and petroleum across the Vietnamese countryside in the 1960s and 1970s as part of Operation Ranch Hand, a program to defoliate Vietnamese jungles and destroy food supplies during the Vietnam War. The chemicals washed into rivers and streams and eventually into the bed of the South China Sea. Under the Agent Orange Act, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs affords a presumption that Agent Orange is responsible if any veteran "who served in the Republic of Vietnam" develops a certain disease. Those veterans are entitled to benefits without actually proving exposure, but the VA has published a series of regulations defining service in Vietnam over the years. Veterans who were not "on the ground" in Vietnam and have thus been denied an Agent Orange presumption sued the VA in 2013 through two organizations, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association and the Military-Veterans Advocacy Inc. They say proving Agent Orange exposure is nearly impossible given the death of records about the chemical's use.

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