WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2011 – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced yesterday that more than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits already has been paid to about 89,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors who filed claims related to one of three new Agent Orange presumptive conditions.
On Aug. 31, 2010, the Veterans Affairs Department amended its regulations to add ischemic heart disease, hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias and Parkinson’s disease to the list of diseases presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.
According to the VA, Agent Orange is the name of a specific blend of herbicides used during the Vietnam era. The military sprayed millions of gallons on trees and vegetation that provided cover for enemy forces. Some Vietnam-era veterans were exposed to these herbicides. VA and many other government departments and agencies have conducted research studies on the possible health effects of Agent Orange exposure on U.S. veterans.
VA has recognized certain cancers and other diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. Veterans, veterans‘ children and survivors may be eligible for compensation benefits for these diseases and health care benefits.
During an Aug. 30 speech before members of the American Legion in Minneapolis, President Barack Obama pledged that the federal government will do all it can to support the nation’s military veterans and their families.
„As the president said to the American Legion yesterday, VA is committed to ensuring veterans and their families receive the care and benefits they have earned,“ Shinseki said yesterday. „I encourage all potentially eligible veterans to apply as soon as possible to preserve the most favorable effective date for payments.“
For new claims, VA may authorize up to one year of retroactive benefits if veterans can demonstrate that they have experienced one of those conditions since the date of the regulatory change.
VA has reviewed, and continues to review, thousands of previously filed claims that may qualify for retroactive benefits under a long-standing court order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Nehmer vs. U.S. Veterans Administration.
„VA encourages survivors of veterans whose death may be due to one of the three diseases to file a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation,“ said Allison A. Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits.
Shinseki’s decision to add these conditions to the list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions was based on a study by the Institute of Medicine. The study indicated a positive association between exposure to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of one or more of the three conditions.
Potentially eligible veterans include those who were exposed based on duty or visitation in Vietnam or on its inland waterways between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975; exposed along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971; or exposed due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases within and outside of the United States.
The Agent Orange Claims Processing System website located at https://www.fasttrack.va.gov/AOFastTrack/ may be used to submit claims related to the three new presumptive conditions. The website makes it easy to electronically file a claim and allows veterans and their physicians to upload evidence supporting the claim. It also permits online viewing of claim status.
Beyond the three new presumptive disabilities, veterans may file online at VA’s My-eBenefits website at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal. People can check the status of their claim with a premium account, confirming their identity, and use a growing number of online services.
Service members may enroll in My-eBenefits by using their Common Access Card at any time during their military service, or before they leave during their Transition Assistance Program briefings. Veterans may also enroll through their myPay or MyHealtheVet accounts by visiting their local VA regional office or veteran service organization, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.
For more information about Agent Orange presumptives and disability compensation, go to http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/.
For questions about Agent Orange, veterans may call VA’s Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387 and press 3.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)