Veterans and advocates created and launched a new interactive online map that aims to help Vietnam veterans apply for and receive their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans who served on a ship inside a designated zone now should have access to disability benefits for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure after the passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last year.
The interactive map created by Hill & Ponton disability attorneys, Military Veterans Advocacy Inc. and the Blue Water Navy Veterans Association helps veterans who served on ships off the coast find their vessels and determine for themselves if they qualify. The map uses the same military coordinates provided to VA in a simplified online tool.
Veterans can enter their own service latitude and longitude data, or use a preloaded list of ship coordinates to find their vessels.
“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for veterans to determine if they were inside the zone,” Matthew Hill, managing partner of Hill & Ponton, said in a statement. “Improving transparency and simplifying access to this data is essential as we support the Vietnam veterans who were impacted during their offshore service by Agent Orange exposure and are now suffering the effects.”
You can access the map by clicking here.
Maps can be saved and resumed for later review by clicking the "Save" button.
Map creators noted that their list is not yet comprehensive, and there may be other ships and dates not listed in the tool, adding that they are still reviewing ship logs in naval archives and adding them to the map.
VA ended its delay on processing claims for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans' Agent Orange claims on Jan. 1, but many still have yet to file their claims. The map could help some vets find out if they're eligible.
To determine claims, VA is using, in part, the locations of thousands of U.S. military map coordinates to locate whether ships were in the designated area of Vietnam territorial seas. VA officials told Congress repeatedly last year that the military map coordinates will not be used to deny veterans benefits, only to add positive evidence to help approve claims.
The map allows veterans a more streamline way to see that same information for themselves. “I began collecting and plotting deck logs within Republic of Vietnam territorial waters in 2016 with the goal of making the information publicly available to all Blue Water Navy veterans and surviving widows,” Ed Ball, retired sailor and BWNA board member, said in a statement. “Over 1,700 deck logs have been plotted to date and we continue to add new information from the BWNVVA Master List of deck logs.”
Veterans can also access Vietnam-era ship logs themselves at archives.gov.
For more information, you can contact map creators by clicking here. If while using the map you discover you were inside the zone that could qualify you for benefits, attorneys are providing free case evaluations. Click here for more information.
More than 400,000 veterans or surviving family members could be eligible for benefits, according to VA. About 77,000 Blue Water veterans were previously denied claims by VA.
A list of the diseases currently linked to Agent Orange and eligible for benefits can be found here.