A veterans advocacy organization filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its decision to delay paying disability benefits claims to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans until at least January 1, 2020. Lawmakers have also urged VA officials to lift a stay on processing the disability claims, calling for quicker action on the cases instead of waiting until next year.
Military Veterans Advocacy (MVA) filed the lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeals. The group called the stay “unlawful” and requested the court to compel the VA to begin processing the claims immediately. In a memo, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the Congress-approved legislation signed by the president authorized him to delay the claims until next year. However, MVA Executive Director John Wells argued that the delays were “unconscionable” and created hurdles for “veterans whose health and longevity are at stake.”
“Blue Water veterans have already had to wait decades for the benefits to which they are entitled. They have waited long enough,” commented Florida veterans lawyer David W. Magann. “Aging veterans who are suffering from serious, sometimes even life-threatening, illnesses due to toxic herbicide exposure deserve to receive their disability payments as soon as possible.”
VA officials said the delay was necessary to ensure agency employees were adequately prepared to process the influx of new claims. They added that entering thousands of new claims into the system could create problems that could affect millions of other veterans filing for disability payments besides those seeking Blue Water benefits.