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Agent Orange exposure in the Republic of Vietnam waters

Blue Water Navy veterans are now entitled to a presumption of service connection for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure.

This extension of the presumption is a result of Public Law 116-23, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, signed into law on June 25. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The law says Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans aboard a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia as defined in Public Law 116-23 between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange and may be entitled to service connection for conditions related to that exposure.

To be entitled to disability compensation benefits, these veterans must have one or more of the conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure that are listed in 38 code of federal regulations section 3.309 (e).

The surviving spouse of a Blue Water Navy veteran may apply for survivor’s benefits. The surviving spouse may be awarded these benefits if the veteran died from a condition related to Agent Orange exposure and served on a Navy or Coast Guard ship that operated not more than 12 nautical miles from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia as defined in the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019.

It is recommended that all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans (and surviving spouses of said veterans) who were previously classified as Blue Water Navy veterans, who served off the coast of Vietnam on a ship that came within 12 nautical miles (that distance equals 13.81 statute miles) of the mainland during the period beginning on Jan. 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, contact their local county Veterans Service Officer for more information about Agent Orange-related disabilities and the VA disability claims process.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.

For more information

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assis­tance to veterans and their families. For more information, visit the county website at www.co.laplata.co.us and type “veterans services” in the search window. The Veterans Service Office and the Durango VA Clinic are located at 1970 East Third Ave. The office phone number is 759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except holidays. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule an appoint­ment, call 382-6150. For clinic appointments, call 247-2214.

Help for vets

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans, family and friends. Call (800) 273-8255 and press 1. You also can text professional responders at 838255 or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.

Health care van service

Disabled American Veterans is running a VA health-care van from Durango to Albuquerque on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from Farmington to Albuquerque on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you want to use the DAV transportation network, contact DAV coordinators at:

Durango area – 442-0149

Cortez area – (970) 676-1116

Farmington/Aztec – (505) 793-1782