VA often makes changes in their regulations that affect veterans. Vietnam era veterans have experienced many of those changes.
For years, VA made it very difficult for veterans to prove their medical conditions that were caused by Agent Orange exposure. Changes in VA’s regulations created presumptions so that veterans who served in Vietnam often did not have to prove actual exposure. These presumptions also helped veterans show that Agent Orange caused certain medical conditions.
But, VA does not treat all Vietnam veterans equally. VA divides Vietnam veterans into two groups.
- Veterans who served “boots on the ground”
- Veterans who served on ships
Veterans who served “boots on the ground” benefits from the Agent Orange presumptions. On the other hand, VA classifies veterans who served on ships into two basic types:
- Brown water veterans
- Blue water veterans
Brown water veterans generally receive the Agent Orange presumption. Blue water veterans can sometimes receive the presumption, but there are special rules that may apply.
The rules that apply generally very depending upon which ship the veteran served. VA also updates the ship list on occasion and moves ships from one category to another on the list.
What if I am a Blue Water Veteran with non-Hodgkins lymphoma?
VA has so many different regulations and rules that it can be difficult to keep up with all of them. VA treats non-Hodgkins lymphoma differently that one Agent Orange diseases. You may not be aware of this.
The regulation that specifically applies to Vietnam veterans with non-Hodgkins lymphoma is regulation 38 CFR 3.313. This regulation applies to you if you a Blue Water veteran who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam during that conflict.
The regulation indicates that VA will service connect your non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma if you develop it after your service. This regulation applies to Blue Water veterans because it states that “service in Vietnam” includes, “service in the waters offshore, or service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in Vietnam.”
So, veterans usually classified as “Blue Water” should be able to get service connection from VA for non-Hodgkins lymphoma even if they did not go on shore. The regulation specifically says “service in the waters offshore” or “service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in Vietnam”.
When do I have to serve to qualify under the 38 CFR3.313 regulation?
The regulation indicates that a veteran must serve “during the Vietnam era”. The Agent Orange regulation defines the Vietnam era as January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975.
Does this right to service-connection for non-Hodgkins lymphoma apply to all Vietnam veterans?
Maybe. Blue Water Navy veterans who served “in the waters offshore” are definitely included.
Service in Vietnam is also definitely included. VA includes Non-Hodgkins lymphoma on the list of conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure. So, veterans who served “boots on the ground” can qualify under that rule.
38 CFR 3.313 also states that “service in Vietnam” includes “service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in Vietnam”. This specifies that veterans who served or visited Vietnam as a condition of their service are covered by the 38 CFR 3.313 regulation.
One interesting question is whether this regulation covers any veterans other than Blue Water veterans who are not otherwise covered by the Agent Orange presumption. Laws normally do not duplicate and restate the same principle that is covered by another law.
Another part of VA’s regulations already establishes that Vietnam veterans who served “boots on the ground” can qualify for the Agent Orange presumption for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. So, why would VA essentially state the same thing again in 38 CFR 3.313?
There does not really seem to be a reason to include this. This may provide an argument that this regulation potentially covers some veterans who served in the Vietnam era and visited Vietnam that are not Blue Water, Brown Water, or “boots on the ground”.
What should I do if I have a non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis and believe that I qualify for benefits under this regulation?
You should file your claim for VA disability benefits. Applying for benefits generally protects your right to benefits.
Some veterans lose potential benefits they should receive because they do not file early enough. This article explains more about when and how to file your claim.
What will happen after I file my claim?
If this regulation applies to you, you should receive service connection from VA for your non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis. But, VA often does not get things right.
They may deny your claim. If they do, you may need to file an appeal to receive the benefits you should.
If you have any questions or need help with an appeal, please feel free to reach out to us. We provide free consultations to veterans in veterans disability claims. This consultation helps you get your questions answered.
This article explains more about how a free veterans disability consultation works. If you would like to set one up, just call us at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit the consultation request form on this page.