On January 29, 2019, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an en banc decision holding that Veterans who served within twelve nautical miles of the “Republic of Vietnam” are entitled to the same presumptive service connection as Veterans who had boots-on-ground.
For decades, the VA has held that Veterans who only served at sea around Vietnam or in Vietnam’s many deepwater ports and harbors (the Blue Water Navy) were not entitled to these presumptions. The Court held that Congress has always intended the so-called Blue Water Navy to be included in these special presumptive service connection rules. Because the Court clarified existing law instead of creating new law, Veterans who were denied prior (even decades ago) because they served at sea and never stepped foot upon any landmass may be able to file a special appeal known as a Clear Unmistakable Error claim (CUE) and receive back pay going back to an effective date of when they filed their first claim regarding the presumptive service connected condition. This is true even if the claim was denied more than one year ago.
Veterans of the Blue Water Navy who have never filed a claim for agent orange related disabilities need to file a claim now. Veterans who have filed for these claims prior and were denied because they did not have “boots-on-ground” must not file a new claim, but rather speak with a representative about filing a CUE appeal.
Click circle below to read the pdf file of the Court Brief (50 pages)