An Agent Orange/Vietnam War seminar will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Defiance Moose Lodge, 841 N. Clinton St. The event is free and open to the public.

Veterans and their surviving spouses may be eligible to receive benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) for disabilities caused by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. For more information, call the Defiance County Veterans Office at 419-782-6861.

Friday’s presenter will be Ed Ball, retired U.S. Navy of the Ohio Retired Military Veterans Advocacy Group.

A January 2019 federal court ruling against the Department of Veterans Affairs, has sided with advocates that have long fought for benefits for Navy veterans who served in the waters around Vietnam. Prior to this federal case, Navy veterans who did not set foot on the ground of Vietnam or the inland waters of Vietnam were not eligible for benefits from the VA for disabilities from Agent Orange toxin exposure.

Those disabilities include prostrate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease (blockages to blood flow to the heart), chloracne, Hodgkins disease, diabetes mellitus II, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and cancers of the lung, bronchus, larynx and trachea, as well as many other cancers. A full list of those cancers can be obtained from any county veterans office.

Benefits also may extend to surviving surviving spouses when the veteran has died of any of the Agent Orange-related disabilities.

The VA estimates that as many as 90,000 blue water veterans could be eligible for benefits and the VA could see total monetary awards of between $1.1 billion to $5 billion over the next 10 years. (The term blue water means that the ships were in the deeper waters of the oceans surrounding Vietnam. A brown water Navy veteran is one who served on smaller watercraft that navigated the inland or shoreline waters of Vietnam.)

The VA will determine if the veteran is eligible by the ship’s location in relation to the waters around Vietnam. The veteran will need to have served on the ship when it was in the designated zone. Fortunately, advocates have already been working with the VA using ship’s deck logs to compile a list of ships and the time period that they were close to Vietnam. The person applying for benefits does not have to provide that information, the VA will have the needed data on file.

In addition to blue water Navy claims for those operating in the Republic of Vietnam, the seminar will discuss toxic chemical exposures in home ports, naval shipyards, and those ports that may have been visited throughout one’s career, as well as involvement in the H.R. 1713 Lonnie Kirkpatrick Central Pacific Relief Act.

If you are a veteran, or surviving spouse of a veteran who served in the Navy during Vietnam, make an appointment with the veterans office in the county in which you live to consider filing a claim for benefits.

The area county veterans offices can be contacted by calling: Defiance County, 419-782-6861; Henry County, 419-592-0956; Paulding County, 419-399-8285; Putnam County, 419-523-4478; Williams County, 419-636-8812; and Fulton County, 419-337-9266.

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