Vietnam Veterans may be eligible for a wide-variety of benefits available to all U.S. military Veterans. Prior to 2002 all that was required to prove active duty service in Vietnam was a Vietnam Service Medal. Then things changed and the VA required that the service member prove they had “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. To establish “boots on the ground” for veterans actually stationed at a military installation in South Vietnam is no problem. To establish “boots on the ground” for veterans who served on active duty during the Vietnam War, but were actually stationed at a military installation in Thailand can be quite a bit more complex.
What does the Code of Federal Regulations have to say about “boots on the ground”?
§ 3.307 Presumptive service connection for chronic, tropical, or prisoner-of-war related disease, disease associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents, or disease associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune; wartime and service on or after January 1, 1947.
(a)General. A chronic, tropical, or prisoner of war related disease, a disease associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents, or a disease associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune listed in § 3.309 will be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by service under the circumstances outlined in this section even though there is no evidence of such disease during the period of service. No condition other than one listed in § 3.309(a) will be considered chronic.
(6)Diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents.
(iii) A veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent, unless there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service. The last date on which such a veteranshall be presumed to have been exposed to an herbicide agent shall be the last date on which he or she served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975. “Service in the Republic of Vietnam” includes service in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.
Refueling stop at Tan Son Nhut Air Base enroute to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand
In 1972 my flight left Travis AFB, CA and flew to Anchorage, AK. From Alaska, we flew to Yakota, Japan then to Clark AB, Phillipines and then on to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. We had to unload in Saigon because the aircraft had to be serviced and refueled. Our layover in Vietnam lasted about 2-3 hours. No doubt, my “visitation” in South Vietnam met the legal requirements of “boots on the ground”. For the past two years I have been trying to convince the VA that I actually had “boots on the ground” in Vietnam. You see, that was almost 47 years ago and I really have no proof other than my word. My DAV representative and I are still working on this one.
So how can a Thailand veteran prove “boots on the ground” in Vietnam?
There are basically two types of material evidence to support “boots on the ground”:
- Lay evidence
- Service or historical records
Lay evidence is material evidence provided by statements made by individuals who had first-hand knowledge of events and who describe events in which they have been personally involved and are therefore competent to make such statements. Lay evidence may be competent if it is provided by a person who has knowledge of facts or circumstances and conveys matters that can be observed and described by a lay person.
Here is some lay evidence that would appear to be competent:
- Statement by Maj Robert Copner
- Notarized statement by Capt. Wiseman, World Airways(Notary)
- Statement by Ken Heittman
- Affadavit James Hopkins
Service records/historical documents
There are many different official military service records that could be used to support a claim of “boots on the ground”, like military pay records, travel vouchers, assignment orders, etc. Official historical records could include records of official events or even letters to or from a friend or love one.
Here are some historical documents that I’ve found online:
- Appeal to VA Board of Appeals – Citation No. 1105217
- Report to Congress – Vietnam Scientific Conference on Human Health – March 2002
This section of the website will actually be an ongoing work in progress. As I discover additional supportive material I’ll include it here. If any of you have material you feel to be important to this page please send it to me.