Washington Co., WI – Agent Orange has long plagued survivors of the Vietnam War. Prior to passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, Veterans who served offshore were denied Agent Orange exposure claims. After years of legal battles and attempts for congress to change the law, President Donald Trump signed the bi-partisan legislation in June of 2019.
When the bill took effect in January, the Washington County Veterans’ Services Office began to diligently identify, pursue, file, and close claims for compensation and survivor benefits, previously denied or never claimed. County Veterans have just surpassed $1 million in retroactive benefits.
“Our Veterans, and their dependents, are finally getting the benefits they have earned for their service,” said Washington County Executive Josh Schoemann. “As a Veteran, I will always advocate for fellow Veterans, especially those who deserve services and healthcare benefits for their service. In this case, Veterans were exposed to harmful chemicals. When medical bills racked up, Veterans lost homes, went bankrupt, or have undergone undue hardship. I appreciate the efforts of our Veterans Services Office to help these Blue Water Vietnam Veterans after they had been ignored for decades due to a technicality in the law.”
After a landmark court case in 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to identify the guidelines for granting benefits to service members who did not serve on land. Since, thousands of Veterans and surviving spouses were denied benefits due to illness directly related to agent orange exposure through drinking water, inhalation, and handling of the toxic herbicides.
The legislation was cosponsored by all eight Wisconsin Congressmen and was long advocated for by former County Board Supervisor Dick Bertram.
“This is not a lottery prize,” Washington County Veterans Services Officer Kurt Rusch said, “this is justice, and a small repayment for a very costly mistake.”
If you or a loved one may have a claim for toxic exposure or another injury from service, please contact the Washington County Veterans Service Office for assistance. Washington County Veterans and eligible dependents can learn more by making an appointment Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. by calling 262-335-4457. There is no charge for this service.