Blue Water Navy

Blue Water Navy

Mike Yates, left, is one of the "blue water" Navy veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but did not qualify for the same disability benefits as other veterans. (Bill O'Leary/ The Washington Post) By Ann E. Marimow

Our fight to help veterans began over 40 years ago, when we realized just how many veterans were suffering from Agent Orange (AO) exposure and not getting any help. Finally, this week an appeals court in Washington ruled in favor of providing overdue assistance to tens of thousands of Navy veterans whose health suffered because of AO.

As many of you know, Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War. Exposure to it can cause life-threatening illnesses- requiring costly and lengthy medical attention.

Unfortunately, until now, only those who were stationed on land or operated on inland waterways could receive disability benefits from exposure to Agent Orange. They are known as the “brown water” Navy.

But the law failed to consider just how easily Agent Orange spread. Exposure occurred not only through contaminated water, but also through the air. Soldiers would acquire AO from drinking water, doing laundry, and cleaning. It’s estimated that 52,000 veterans were denied assistance for health issues caused by exposure to Agent Orange, just because they didn’t have ”boots on the ground”. This group is referred to as the “blue water” Navy, because it was made up of sailors patrolling Vietnam’s coastline.

This appeals court decision is huge. It finally allows our “blue water” Navy brothers and sisters who are suffering from the very same Agent Orange related illnesses as the “brown water” Navy to receive equal compensation from the VA.

It is tragic that many veterans have passed away from AO without getting help from the VA. Although it is too late for some, many will find new hope and new life from this appeals court decision.

Veterans are everywhere. They are not only our heroes, but also our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. You can help make a difference by staying informed on current veteran issues and supporting our mission to help veterans in need across the country.

To read more about the case and court decision, please visit this link: