If Greg Fuller had ever, even for just a few minutes, set foot on Vietnamese soil during the time he spent serving in the Vietnam War, he'd be eligible to collect thousands of dollars each year in disability payments.
Diagnosed in 2005 with prostate cancer, Fuller is among the untold number of Vietnam veterans who have illnesses that have been linked to Agent Orange, an herbicide that the U.S. military sprayed over the Vietnamese jungle to expose enemy forces and destroy food crops.
But as a member of the so-called Blue Water Navy — sailors who served aboard ships that operated off the shore of Vietnam — Fuller has received only denial letters from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which maintains that the cancer is not connected to his service in the war because his boots never touched land.
The VA says Blue Water Navy veterans aren't eligible because the herbicide was sprayed over land. Veterans and their advocates say the herbicide ran off into the South China Sea, contaminating the water that the Navy distilled for drinking and powering the ships' boilers.
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