New Procedures Now in Place for Claims of Inland Waterway Service

The VA is currently building their list of Blue Water Navy ships (which include Coast Guard vessels) that performed duties on inland waterways. The Washington office at VA Headquarters is spearheading this effort and they have notified all the Regional Offices that whenever they get information regarding Blue Water Navy ships that sailed on inland waters and/or BWN ships that docked in Vietnamese ports or harbors, they are to submit that information to the DC offices for verification. Information from Deck Logs and other sources will be investigated for credibility.

In filing a claim based on presumptive exposure to herbicides if your ship was in port or on inland waters, the best thing you can do is present the Regional Office (along with your claim submission) certified copies of the information you are using to prove this situation. In many cases, information from a Cruise Book is ideal. Information from your ship's history from Internet sites is also good. Send a copy of that portion of the Cruise book, ship's history and/or photos that show river service or docking, along with a request for the Regional VA Office to obtain the deck logs for that time period to substantiate your claim. Statements attesting to the fact that what you are submitting is true to the best of your knowledge should also be sent. You should have a VSO or the Regional Office itself certify that the copies being submitted are true copies of the original documents which you need to show, but retain in your possession. The ROs will submit the certified copies of this information to the Comp & Pen Division in Washington, and the database of these inland water services will be created after verification of this information.

The ultimate goal of this will be a database searchable by the Regional Offices that will validate your claims for presumptive exposure if the ship, for your specified timeframe, is in the database already from someone else's claim. Otherwise, your submission will create the first entry into the database. You will not have to bear the cost of obtaining the Deck Logs under this scenario. That will be the responsibility of the VA. We know that in some cases, information and instructions that has been sent from the Washington offices do not always trickle downhill to the claims adjudicators, or at least not in a timely fashion. Therefore, you should also include a copy of the October 19, 2009 letter from Secretary Shinseki to Senator Akaka which mentions the development of this searchable database of BWN ships serving in Vietnam. Download a copy of that letter here.

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