Ships Log:  Yes, VA, Navy Veterans Were Exposed to Agent Orange

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UPDATE: As of January 2020, Blue Water claims are being processed.

It is very important veterans know that the VA maintains a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships associated with military service in Vietnam and exposure to Agent Orange based on military records.  The total number of ships on the list is 308.  It is an evolving list, one that helps veterans who served aboard these ships, including Blue Water Navy Veterans, find out if they may qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure. You can look at our Navy ships in Vietnam Map here!   A presumption is a legal term that means that the VA has to assume a fact unless there is evidence against the fact.  For Vietnam veterans this means evidence of actual exposure to Agent Orange is not required, that those veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they meet the requirements for the presumption.

Boats or ships that were part of the Mobile Riverine Force, Inshore Fire Support (ISF) Division 93 or had one of the following designations operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam.  Veterans whose military records confirm they were aboard these ships qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.

  1. AGP (Assault Group Patrol/Patrol Craft Tender)
  2. LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized)
  3. LCU (Landing Craft, Utility)
  4. LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel)
  5. LST (Landing Ship, Tank)
  6. PBR (Patrol Boat, River)
  7. PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast or Swift Boat)
  8. PG (Patrol Gunboat)
  9. STABS (Strike Assault Boats)
  10. WAK (Cargo Vessel)
  11. WHEC (High Endurance Cutter)
  12. WLB (Buoy Tender)
  13. WPB (Patrol Boat)
  14. YFU (Harbor Utility Craft)

Veterans who were not aboard the above mentioned designated boats or ships that were also not included in the Mobile Riverine Force or ISF Division 93 but did serve on a particular ship can find an alphabetized list at www.publichealth.va.gov.  The list is continually updated as documents become declassified and official military records are digitized.  If a veteran’s particular ship is not listed, he/she can conduct his/her own research and submit documentary evidence to the VA.  Documentary evidence includes dick logs, ship histories, and cruise book entries.

The very notion that the VA could even surmise that Blue Water Navy Veterans were NOT exposed to Agent Orange is completely illogical.  There were massive amounts of Agent Orange sprayed in Vietnam, and if one were to really think about it, just because this herbicide was sprayed on the land in Vietnam does not mean the veterans serving on the ships in the inland waterways, which include the rivers, canals, estuaries, delta areas, and enclosed bays of Vietnam, were not exposed in some way.  Logic dictates that the herbicide became airborne, thus, how could it be contained to just land.  Not only that, but the runoff of the millions and millions of gallons of herbicide sprayed on the land that drained by streams and rivers into the ocean is a clear indicator of Agent Orange exposure by the Blue Water Navy Veterans.  The VA has insisted for years that trace amounts of dioxin were not “biologically available for skin absorption or inhalation because dioxin is not water or sweat-soluble and does not give off airborne particles.”  Research that has been conducted, verified, and peer reviewed should lay to rest any misconceptions that spray drift from Ranch Hand missions in Vietnam was unable to travel 50 to 100 miles to reach even the furthest ships from the Vietnamese shore and that airborne dioxin quickly settled or degraded.

An Institute of Medicine report provided an analysis of possible pathways by which the three classes of Vietnam Veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange.  One those ways unique to Blue Water Navy personnel was the contamination of shipboard water.  Because the technology of distilling water for use onboard ships did not allow for detecting and filtering out elements such as dioxin, and no one at that time even knew enough to be looking for it, contamination of the water supply is the primary suspect for causing the most widespread exposure to offshore veterans.

Any ship or boat docked in Da Nang Harbor was particularly exposed because Da Nang Harbor is the drainage point for two rivers in the watershed of one of the heaviest sprayed areas of Vietnam, and because of its proximity to the Da Nang Airfield, should be considered a direct exposure for area for every veteran who was in the Harbor.  At the very least, the Harbor itself should be considered an uncontested presumptive exposure area.  The exposure of anchored ships to the vapors of water-borne dioxin was overwhelming, as reported by hundreds of navy personnel who were essential trapped on their anchored vessels as waterborne dioxin surrounded them, kept buoyant by the fuel oil it was mixed with.  Those Blue Water Navy veterans were forced to inhale vapors, and now, they are being forced to fight for benefits because the VA won’t acknowledge what we all know is just plain common sense.

UPDATE: As of January 2020, Blue Water claims are being processed.

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  • Thank you to the firm of Hill & Ponton!! Brian Hill and his staff were able to get my 100% disability with the VA for my exposure to herbicides in Thailand. I have been fighting for this for many years and kept getting denied, after consulting with Hill & Ponton I decided to let them help me and it was the best decision I could have made. I found their professionalism to be outstanding.

    – Chip P.

    North Carolina

  • They got my disability rating after I was denied twice. They knew exactly how to format and submit the claim. I was rated 50%, Hill & Ponton weren’t done, they found other medical that related to exposure and submitted additional claims. I could not have received a disability rating without Hill & Ponton. If you need help, choose Hill & Ponton.

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