Vets Get $2.2 Billion in Agent Orange Benefits

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.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)