VA Encourages Affected Vietnam Veterans to File Claims
WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has 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.
Shinseki said VA has 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," 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 has offered Veterans exposed to Agent Orange special access to health
care since 1978, and priority medical care since 1981. VA has 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.
Other recognized illnesses under VA's "presumption" rule for Agent
* Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
* 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