Tuesday, November 2, 2010

VA Begins paying expanded Agent Orange benefits

From the Air Force News Service 

11/1/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Department of Veterans Affairs officials have begun distributing disability benefits to Vietnam veterans who qualify for compensation under recently liberalized rules for Agent Orange exposure.

"The joint efforts of Congress and VA demonstrate a commitment to provide Vietnam veterans with treatment and compensation for the long-term health effects of herbicide exposure," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

Up to 200,000 Vietnam veterans are potentially eligible to receive VA disability compensation for medical conditions recently associated with Agent Orange. The expansion of coverage involves B-cell (or hairy-cell) leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease.

Secretary Shinseki said VA officials have launched a variety of initiatives, both technological and involving better business practices, to tackle an anticipated upsurge in Agent Orange-related claims.

"These initiatives show VA's ongoing resolve to modernize its processes for handling claims through automation and improvements in doing business, providing veterans with faster and more accurate decisions on their applications for benefits," Secretary Shinseki said.

Providing initial payments, or increases to existing payments, to the 200,000 veterans who now qualify for disability compensation for these three conditions is expected to take several months, but VA officials encourage all Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and suffer from one of the three diseases to make sure their applications have been submitted.

VA officials have offered veterans exposed to Agent Orange special access to health care since 1978, and priority medical care since 1981. They have been providing disability compensation to veterans with medical problems related to Agent Orange since 1985.

In practical terms, veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a "presumed" illness do not have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This "presumption" simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

The three new illnesses -- B-cell (or hairy-cell) leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease -- are added to the list of presumed illnesses previously recognized by VA officials.

Other recognized illnesses under VA's "presumption" rule for Agent Orange are:

* Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
* Chloracne
* Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
* Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
* Hodgkin's Disease
* Multiple Myeloma
* Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
* Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
* Prostate Cancer
* Respiratory Cancers
* Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)
* AL Amyloidosis

Veterans interested in applying for disability compensation under one of the three new Agent Orange presumptives should go to www.fasttrack.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000.
---------------- "And so the greatest of American triumphs... became a peculiarly joyless victory. We had won the Cold War, but there would be no parades." -- Robert M. Gates, 1996