Citation Nr: 18131201
Decision Date: 08/31/18	Archive Date: 08/31/18

DOCKET NO. 15-37 466
DATE:	August 31, 2018
REMANDED
Entitlement for service connection for Type II diabetes mellitus (diabetes mellitus) as a result of herbicide agent exposure is remanded.
REASONS FOR REMAND
The Veteran served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Navy from June 1964 to June 1968, and was awarded numerous decorations, including the Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign Medal. This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from a November 2013 rating decision issued by a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO). The Veteran testified before the undersigned at a hearing held in September 2016; a transcript of that hearing is of record.
Entitlement for service connection for diabetes mellitus is remanded.
The Veteran contends that he is entitled to service connection for his current diagnosis of diabetes mellitus because it was caused by his exposure to herbicide agents during his active military service. He does not claim that he set foot in the Republic of Vietnam; rather, he contends that he was exposed to Agent Orange while stationed on the U.S.S. Walke that he indicates served the in-land waterways and close coastal waters of Vietnam. Specifically, he testified that the ship was part of Operation Market Time which was a search and seizure mission of sampans on the river delta at some point from September 1967 until April 1968.  He explained that during these missions the ship was in the river mouth far enough that you could see both sides of the ship and shoreline.  
The initial request for information from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) reflect that the U.S.S. Walke was in the official waters of Vietnam on several occasions that coincided with the Veteran’s service; however, they could not provide conclusive proof of in-country service.  A subsequent request noted that the 1967 command history had been reviewed and again confirmed that the U.S.S. Walke served off the coast of Vietnam.  Significantly, the U.S.S. Walke was noted to have operated in “brown water” on at least one occasion in 1969.  See Navy and Coast Guard Ships Associated with Service in Vietnam and Exposure to Herbicide Agents.
In this case, further search was not conducted as the dates “exceed the maximum cumulative 6-day period for us to conduct deck log research.”  The CAVC held that “the duty to assist required VA to submit multiple 60-day record searches” to the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) Gagne v. McDonald, 27 Vet. App. 397, 403 (2015).  Given the Veteran’s testimony, VA should VA should submit multiple 60-day record searches to determine if the U.S.S. Walke was in the river deltas during the Veteran’s 8-month cruise.     
Therefore, the matter is REMANDED for the following action:
1.  Attempt to verify the Veteran’s asserted in-service exposure to herbicide agents while serving aboard the U.S.S. Walke from September 1967 until April 1968 and participating in Operation Market Time.  If more details are needed, contact the Veteran to request the information.  Multiple 60-day record searches should be conducted to cover the entire period.  If there is still insufficient information to verify exposure to herbicide agents, issue a Formal Finding outlining the steps taken to assist the Veteran and notify the Veteran of VA's inability to verify the in-service herbicide agent exposure.
2. After the above development and any additionally indicated development has been completed, readjudicate the issues on appeal. If the benefit sought is not fully granted, send the Veteran and his representative a Supplemental Statement of the Case and provide the Veteran with an opportunity to respond. If necessary, return the case to the Board for further appellate review.
 
H. SEESEL
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Hannah Marsdale, Associate Counsel

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