AFTER COURT CASE, UVA STUDENTS’ TOOL COULD HELP VETERANS GET KEY BENEFITS

by Caroline Newman: For More Info, Go Here...

Sailors on ships like the USS Alamo spent days and weeks in the territorial waters of Vietnam, where they could have been exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange — linked with various health conditions including Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

Until recently, they were not eligible for the same health benefits as soldiers who served on the ground or patrolled inland rivers, and who later developed health problems associated with Agent Orange. However, a federal court ruled Tuesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs must extend those benefits to those who served offshore. A bill considering the issue, called the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, also came up in the last Congress, but did not pass in the Senate.

Even with Tuesday’s ruling, one key obstacle stands between veterans like those Alamo sailors and the benefits they need. How can families – and the VA officials assessing their claims – prove that a particular ship was in the Agent Orange exposure zone, defined by the legislation as within 12 nautical miles of a boundary off the coast of Vietnam?

Currently, that process involves looking through handwritten deck logs or other archived documents to prove eligibility. It’s a time-consuming process for veterans, their families and the VA.

That’s where Brian Harris, Jackson Sutherland, Alexi Himarios and Matthew Jacobs come in. They knew there had to be a better way.

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