U.S. Marines prepare to board ship at Danang in 1970 for trip back to U.S. under withdrawal orders. On Tuesday, a federal court ordered VA to award presumptive disability benefit status to thousands of Vietnam veterans who served on ships in the waters around that country. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON — A federal court ruled Tuesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot deny disability benefits to thousands of Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants simply because those vets served in the waters off the country’s coastline, and not inland.
The ruling marks a major victory for so-called “blue water” Navy veterans who have fought the department for years over the denials. VA officials have said the existing scientific evidence doesn’t justify the presumption of toxic exposure for the group and have strongly opposed legislative efforts to overturn their decision.