Those who served aboard deep-water naval vessels are the Blue Water Navy. Within the current VA interpretation, Blue Water Navy personnel are not eligible for a presumption of exposure. Although that interpretation was challenged by Blue Water Navy veterans, the VA position was upheld in the 2008 case of Haas v. Peake and stands today. Since 2008, the VA has, case by case, recognized numerous Blue Water Navy ships as having entered the inland waterways of Vietnam or having docked in Vietnam at specific times and locations. Navy personnel who served aboard those blue-water ships during the specific times when their ships were on inland waters or docked are now eligible for the presumption of service connection to Agent Orange–associated diseases. The VA continues to review the deck logs and other materials for Blue Water Navy ships to determine their crews’ eligibility for consideration of the presumption of exposure to herbicides, but this process has been slow and labor intensive. As of January 2011, over 140 individual ships and 51 classes of Navy vessels that served in the Seventh Fleet during the Vietnam era have been categorized as having served primarily or exclusively in inland waterways, temporarily in inland waterways, or in coastal waterways of Vietnam with evidence that crew members went ashore or that smaller ships regularly went ashore with supplies or personnel (James Sampsel, VA, personal communication, January 12, 2011). Navy personnel who served aboard Blue Water Navy ships that have not been categorized as brown-water ships or who served on such ships before or after the designated period of brown water activity are not eligible for the presumption of service connection.
Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans have been active in notifying the VA of ships that entered Vietnamese inland waters by submitting deck logs and other documentation. They have also been active in working with members of Congress to enact legislation to expand the eligibility for presumption of herbicide exposure to Blue Water Navy veterans, although such legislation has not been enacted. Their concerns are related to potential exposure not only to the herbicides themselves but to the TCDD contaminant present in Agent Orange. Recent publications, such as that of an Australian study of potential TCDD enrichment of potable water onboard Royal Australian Navy ships as a result of the ships’ water-distillation process, have prompted additional concerns regarding exposure of Blue Water Navy veterans to herbicide-related TCDD (Muller et al., 2002).
The IOM committee that prepared the 2008 update in the VAO report series stated: