VA, NARA Complete Digitization Effort to Help Speed Up Disability Claims for Some Veterans

Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.com

Records that fill 29,000 boxes will now be used to validate service-connected disability benefits claims for veterans exposed to toxins like Agent Orange in waters near Vietnam.

The Veterans Affairs Department and National Archives and Records Administration completed a massive digitization effort ultimately intended to quicken the time it takes for certain Vietnam veterans to receive help for enduring exposure to toxins like Agent Orange while they were at war. 

In a robust, collective push, the agencies digitized heaps of NARA-held U.S. Navy and Coast Guard declassified deck logs, which may hold data used in the determination of VA-distributed disability claims. Also deemed ship or captain’s logs, the documents include chronological details of daily happenings on Navy ships and units. 

The move to digitize these specific deck logs followed the passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 and the information contained in them can be tapped to validate service-connected disability claims particularly for Blue Water Navy, or BWN Veterans. During the Vietnam War, these Navy members served in the waters around the country—but after the conflict, they experienced more administrative barriers to demonstrate they were exposed to toxic agents amid their deployments. Many found it difficult to prove their eligibility for relevant benefits, though they developed similar symptoms and illnesses as other service members whose boots were on the ground.

Following a long legislative journey, the relatively recently passed law extends presumptive status for disability benefits to veterans who faced herbicide exposure in the “blue water” near Vietnam. 

“This significant digitization effort took close to 300 individuals from NARA and VA to successfully execute, as well as many more VA personnel to process the BWN claims once the law took into effect on January 1, 2020,” VA Press Secretary Christina Noel told Nextgov via email Tuesday. 

To complete the Blue Water Navy digitization efforts, Noel said more than “29,000 boxes of deck logs had to be removed from high-capacity storage” within NARA, and then inventoried, boxed and prepped. From there, it was all shipped to VA where Noel said the records were “reconciled, carefully unpacked, prepped and delicately scanned.”

Once digitized, VA then extracted key data elements from deck logs for more than 1,800 vessels contained in the tens of thousands of boxes, Noel explained. They are what’s now used as supporting evidence for Blue Water Navy claims the agency receives.

“The deck log digitization resulted in approximately 29 million total images,” Noel said.

Following all the scanning and data extraction, the veterans-focused agency then returned the paper records back to NARA where they will be housed for long term preservation. Notably, VA also provided NARA with the digital images of all those logs that are being made available to the public for the first time in the National Archives Catalog, Noel confirmed.

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero noted in VA’s press release that the log of the hospital ship he served aboard during Vietnam was involved in the effort. “As a veteran from this era, I recognize the unprecedented value this provides to veterans making these logs easily accessible online,” Ferriero said.

While all available Navy deck logs for ships that served in Vietnam—and dated from between 1956 to 1978—were digitized in December, the Coast Guard logs from that time finished this month. 

The two agencies previously worked together in 2014, when NARA helped advance the digitization of the Official Military Personnel Files, and that pre-existing relationship enabled the records agency to confidently release so many records to VA, Noel said. 

“The team at NARA recognizes the importance of this effort making it easier for BWN Veterans to receive the benefits they’ve earned without burdening them with paperwork,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie also noted in the agency’s release. 

VA’s announcement further reveals that at the time of its publication, the agency has already collectively paid out $641 million to more than 22,524 Blue Water Navy veterans or survivors. There are an estimated 90,000 veterans who might potentially be eligible for such assistance. 

Press secretary Noel said, going forward, “VA is continuing to identify additional opportunities to proactively digitize records taking into account upcoming legislation, veteran populations, and general trends which will alleviate the burden to the veteran or other third parties that may have paper records in their custody.”

Approved Veterans Service Organizations are available to assist those hoping to file BWN-related claims.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.