The Department of Veterans Affairs has no plans to challenge a court ruling last week ordering it to make retroactive payments to a small class of "Blue Water Navy" Vietnam veterans and their survivors who were wrongly denied benefits for exposure to Agent Orange, the head of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) said Wednesday.
The Justice Department has not indicated whether the Nov. 5 ruling by federal District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco will be appealed, but Paul Lawrence, VA under secretary and VBA chief, said the The VA had prepared for the possibility that Alsup would rule against it, Lawrence said in an interview with Military.com.
"So we tagged certain claims so that we could go back, were that ruling to happen," he explained. "I think we have to go back and find the estates of those who could have potentially filed claims. We have history around this; we are prepared."
The case involves a 1991 consent decree in which the VA agreed to pay death and disability benefits to Blue Water veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam, along with those who served on land, for exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used widely during the war.