The Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week that disability benefits have begun to flow to qualifying Vietnam veterans under new rules for conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange. While the VA has offered special benefits and services to veterans exposed to Agent Orange for about 30 years, the VA recently broadened its presumption rule related to conditions associated with Agent Orange.
Up to 200,000 Vietnam Veterans could receive disability compensation or an increase in compensation under the new expansion, including many Florida Vietnam era vets.
The VA says the expansion of coverage involves certain conditions recently linked to Agent Orange exposure. The conditions included within expansion are B-cell (or hairy cell) Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease.
Twelve other illnesses qualify as presumed conditions under previous VA rules. Generally, Veterans who served in Vietnam who also have a "presumed" illness do not have the burden to prove the illness is linked to their military service. The presumption streamlines the application process for disability benefits for veterans afflicted with the illnesses.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said that the VA is trying to improve its technology and business practices in order to handle more claims related to Agent Orange and to try to process applications for benefits more accurately and quickly. The VA reportedly expects an upsurge in Agent-Orange related claims.
The VA expects that providing initial payments and increases to existing payments for qualifying Vietnam veterans will take several months. The VA encourages veterans with the three new presumed conditions to submit their applications for veteran's disability benefits.
Source: U.S. Department of veteran Affairs, "VA Begins Paying Benefits for New Agent Orange Claims," 1 Nov 2010
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