Fearless Aging: Agent Orange and Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans

November is the month we honor our veterans.

Benefits are available to veterans who were in a war-time period, including mental health benefits and more. This article is going to focus on Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are eligible for disability compensation.

The eligibility requirements include:

• Presumptive diseases, meaning it is assumed certain cancers and other illnesses are caused by Agent Orange.

• Presumptive exposure , meaning it is assumed veterans who served in certain locations were exposed to Agent Orange.

The disability compensation includes Blue Water Navy, which includes those who served aboard ships in the open waters off Vietnam during the Vietnam War but who never served on land.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 states that anyone who served as far as 12 nautical miles from Vietnam during the war are now presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange and may be entitled to compensation. If your claim was denied in the past, you can file a new claim based on Public Law 116-23.

The cancers and other illnesses caused by Agent Orange are extensive. Some illnesses include diabetes mellitus Type 2, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, AL amyloidosis, chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease) and more.

If you believe you or your loved one has an illness caused by Agent Orange exposure, you must file a claim for VA disability benefits. You will need to submit more documents and evidence. Please contact your local Veterans Assistance Commission for assistance and guidance. The McHenry County VAC can be contacted at 815-334-4229.

• Jennifer Prell is president of Elderwerks Educational Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Visit elderwerks.org or call 855-462-0100 for personal assistance. Email questions to help@elderwerks.org.