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Agent Orange and VA Disability Compensation
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Agent Orange and VA Disability Compensation
Agent Orange Brief
Prepared by the Environmental Agents Service (131)
VA Central Office, Washington, DC 20420
Agent Orange and VA Disability Compensation
What is disability compensation and who is eligible for this benefit?
Veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active service in the line of duty during wartime or peacetime service and discharged or separated under other than dishonorable conditions are eligible for monthly payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The amount of these payments, called disability compensation, is based on the degree of disability. For example, a veteran with a 30 percent service-connected disability would receive more money than a veteran with a 10 or 20 percent disability. A veteran who is totally disabled would receive substantially more than a veteran with a lesser disability.
Does exposure to Agent Orange alone qualify Vietnam veterans for disability compensation?
No. Mere exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals used in military service does not automatically qualify Vietnam veterans for compensation.
As mentioned above, payments are based on disabilities. Many Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange have no serious medical problems. Some Vietnam veterans have disabilities clearly unrelated to their military service. For example, a Vietnam veteran may have been in an automobile accident 10 or 15 years after leaving military service.
Under the law, disability compensation can only be approved for conditions incurred in or aggravated during military service.
The number of diseases that VA has recognized as associated with, but not necessarily caused by, Agent Orange exposure has expanded considerably during the 1990's. The following conditions are now presumptively recognized for service-connection for Vietnam veterans based on exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides: chloracne (a skin disorder), porphyria cutanea tarda, acute or subacute transient peripheral neuropathy (a nerve disorder), type 2 diabetes and numerous cancers [non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, and respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus)]. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is being added to the list in 2003.
In addition, Vietnam veterans' children with the birth defect spina bifida are eligible for certain benefits and services. In 1999, VA announced that statutory authority would be sought for similar benefits and services for children with birth (Public 106-419)defects who were born to women Vietnam veterans. Legislation (Public Law 106-419) was enacted on November 1, 2000. Implementing regulations, published in the Federal Register, in July 2002, are retroactive to December 1, 2001. (See 67 Fed. Reg. 49585, July 31, 2002).
Under what procedure are conditions presumptively recognized for service-connection for Vietnam veterans based on exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides used in Vietnam? Will the list of such conditions change in the future?
Public Law 102-4, the Agent Orange Act of 1991, directed VA to obtain reports every two years from the National Academy of Sciences evaluating available scientific evidence concerning the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam. After receiving each report, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs must determine whether there is a positive association between herbicide exposure for any additional diseases. If the Secretary finds a positive association for any such disease, the Secretary must issue regulations, published in the Federal Register, to establish a presumption of service connection for the disease in veterans who were exposed to herbicides during military service.
The list of such conditions may be changed by VA based on scientific findings and the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences concerning the research results. Acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy and prostate cancer were not included until in 1996. Type 2 diabetes was added in 2001. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is being added in 2003.
If a veteran has a disability that he or she believes was caused by Agent Orange exposure or some other aspect of military service, what should he or she do?
To receive disability compensation, the veteran must file an application for such benefits. For information or assistance in applying, the veteran can write, call, or visit a Veterans Services Representatives at the nearest VA regional office or VA medical center, or a local veterans service organization representative.
What should a veteran do if his or her claim for disability compensation is denied by VA?
While VA provides billions of dollars to veterans and their survivors in disability compensation each year, VA does not approve every claim. When a claim is denied, VA provides the applicant with the reason for this action as well as detailed information regarding appeal rights.
If a Vietnam veteran receives an Agent Orange Registry examination, does that automatically make him or her eligible for disability compensation?
No. Veterans who wish to be considered for disability compensation must file a claim for that benefit. Necessary forms and relevant information about the claims' process can be obtained from a Veterans Services Representative at the nearest VA regional office or medical center.
Many Agent Orange Registry participants have no medical problems whatsoever and never file for compensation.
What is the relationship between the VA disability compensation program and the Agent Orange Veteran Payment Program?
There is no connection. The Agent Orange Veteran Payment Program was established as a result of settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by Vietnam veterans and their families against the manufacturers of Agent Orange. The application forms, claims processing, eligibility criteria, etc., of these two programs are completely different. For additional information about the class action lawsuit and benefits from its settlement, see Agent Orange Brief, A2. Vietnam veterans and their families may wish to contact an attorney (at their own expense). Individuals with inquiries about this matter may wish to contact Dr. Gerson Smoger at email@example.com. Higerson@texasinjurylaw.com. His s telephone number is 510-531-4529. He is located in California.
Where can a veteran get additional information about the VA disability compensation program?
Additional information regarding this program is available from Veterans Services Representatives at VA regional offices and medical centers throughout the Nation. The telephone numbers can be found in local telephone directories under the "U.S. Government" listings. In most areas, callers can use the following toll-free number: 1-800-827-1000. Veteran's service organization representatives also have considerable information on this subject.
Where is additional information on Agent Orange related issues available?
The following Agent Orange fact sheets (including the one you are reading) are available on the World Wide Web at www.va.gov/agentorange. Hard copies can be obtained from local VA medical centers or from the VA Central Office at the Environmental Agents Service (131) Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20420. The briefs are A1 - General Information, A2 Class Action Lawsuit, B1 - Registry, B2 - Health Care Eligibility, B4 - VA Information on Agent Orange and Related Matters, C1 - The Problems Encountered in Research, C2 - Vietnam Related Research-VA Efforts, C3 - Vietnam Related Research - Non-VA Efforts, D1 - Birth Defects, D2 - Chloracne, D3 - Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, D4 - Soft Tissue Sarcomas, D5 - Peripheral Neuropathy, D6 - Hodgkin's Disease, D7 - Porphyria Cutanea Tarda, D8 - Multiple Myeloma, D9 - Respiratory Cancers, D10 - Prostate Cancer, D11 - Spina Bifida, D12 - Diabetes, and D13 - Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Also see attached fact sheets produced by the Office of Public Affairs and Media Relations in March and April 2005 on "Disability Compensation - 2005 Rates" and "VA Disability Claims Processing" respectively.
This fact sheet was updated in late July 2003August 2005 and does not include any subsequent developments.
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