We Provide Answers to Your VA Disability Benefits Questions Here
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Am I eligible for disability if I was exposed to Agent Orange while working near the DMZ?
The answer is yes—all thanks to the Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed over 10 percent of South Vietnam with a deadly herbicide known as Agent Orange. This toxic chemical was used as a tactical defoliant to wipe out the thick vegetation, plant life, and trees that provided cover to the Viet Cong and Vietnamese.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognized that veterans who served in locations near or at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) had been exposed to Agent Orange as well, citing exposure dates from April 1, 1968 to August 31, 1971. Eventually, the VA reported that serious, debilitating medical conditions could occur after exposure to even small doses of the deadly toxin.
How the Fairness Act Helps Veterans Who Served Near the DMZ
For many years, only DMZ veterans who served from April 1968 to August 1971 were eligible for disability benefits for medical conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, this excluded some veterans who served earlier at the DMZ.
Penned by U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, the Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act redefined the period of exposure for veterans who served near or at the DMZ. The VA recognized September 1, 1967 as an earlier date for exposure, expanding the time period by seven months.
The Act proved beneficial for DMZ veterans in the following ways:
- Those DMZ veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange earlier than April 1968 were also given "presumptive status" and benefit equity for their associated medical conditions.
- Those DMZ veterans no longer had to endure a lengthy and difficult appeals process or provide proof they were exposed to Agent Orange.
- There were nearly 1,500 DMZ vets who became eligible for disability due to the Fairness Act.
Additionally, DMZ veterans may qualify for an Agent Orange Registry health exam, which is offered to determine whether a veteran suffered long-term health problems due to his exposure to Agent Orange.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran who served at or near the Korean DMZ from September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971, and you have a medical condition you believe is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law.
You may be eligible for VA benefits, and we can help determine if your military duty during this time qualifies you for disability benefits. Let our experienced lawyers help you with your disability claim. Contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
As an Air Force Reservist, how was I exposed to Agent Orange?
During Operation “Ranch Hand,” the U.S. military sprayed 18 million gallons of tactical defoliants to destroy the jungle and dense foliage used by the Viet Cong for cover in Vietnam. One of these defoliants was Agent Orange—a deadly herbicide that contained the highly toxic chemical, TCDD.
Agent Orange Exposure
From 1969–1972, approximately 40 C-123 aircraft were used to disperse Agent Orange. When this spraying initiative was finished, the planes were sent back to the U.S. Over 20 of those planes were distributed to U.S. Air Force (AF) reserve units. The others were sold to other countries for use.
In the years that followed, 1,500–2,100 AF Reservists worked on or maintained these C-123 aircraft used to spray Agent Orange ultimately came in contact with chemical residue on the planes’ surfaces.
Navigators, loadmasters, flight engineers, pilots, and anyone providing maintenance for the planes were likely exposed by:
- Inhaling or ingesting the TCDD residue left on the surfaces of the plane
- Flying on these planes to provide medical services
- Flying on this aircraft to perform regular duties or ground responsibilities
Initially, The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied AF Reservists' applications for disability under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, because they hadn’t fought in Vietnam and weren't considered Vietnam veterans. However, in 2014, the VA asked the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to research and evaluate the exposure of Reservists to Agent Orange.
The HMD found that when C-123s were sent back to the U.S. for reconditioning and then returned to service, crew members who washed these planes to rid them of Agent Orange were exposed, typically spending between 4.5–12 hours per shift on board one of these contaminated planes. Thus, anyone who had regular contact with them was likely to suffer illnesses caused by or associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you worked on or maintained a C-123 plane as a U.S. Reservist and believe your medical condition is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. We can help determine if the work you did on this plane qualifies for VA benefits.
Call Cuddigan Law to talk with an intake specialist for free and get help with your VA disability appeal. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you.
As an Air Force Reservist, can I obtain VA disability if I was exposed to Agent Orange?
Possibly. At the request of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine studied U.S. Air Force (AF) Reservists and their likely exposure to Agent Orange while working on C-123 aircraft used in the Vietnam War.
The 2015 report, "Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft," was released with findings about the negative health impact Agent Orange had on Reservists who came in contact with this aircraft.
The report found that “approximately 1,500-to- 2,100 AF Reserve personnel trained and worked on C-123 aircraft that had previously been used to spray herbicides, including Agent Orange, in Vietnam.”
Additionally, the report determined that Reservists who had “regular contact with the aircraft could have been exposed to chemicals from herbicide residue, including TCDD—the toxic chemical in Agent Orange—and that exposure could result in adverse health effects.”
Disability for AF Reservists
After the published report, the VA recognized that AF Reservists who operated or maintained C-123s were exposed to Agent Orange. These planes were used to spray tactical defoliants to destroy trees, plants, crops, and vegetation used by the Viet Cong and Vietnamese as cover. After the U.S. stopped spraying Agent Orange in 1971, the C-123 planes were reassigned to reserve units to carry cargo and for medical evacuation missions that continued for 10 years.
If you were a Reservist, you may qualify for disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure if you came in contact with a C-123. If you’ve developed a disease you believe is due to that exposure, you need to prove you worked on or with this type of plane.
Some diseases associated with Agent Orange include:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Peripheral neuropathy and early-onset peripheral neuropathy
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung, trachea, and prostate cancer
Call Cuddigan Law
If you maintained or came in contact with a C-123 plane as a U.S. Air Force Reservist and believe your medical condition is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. You may be eligible for VA benefits, and we can help determine if the work you did on this plane qualifies for these benefits.
Call Cuddigan Law to get help with your VA disability appeal today. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you. Contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Which Blue Water Navy ships were exposed to Agent Orange?
During the Vietnam War, sailors in the Blue Water Navy were service members who never stepped foot on Vietnamese soil. However, these sailors were on ships that sailed in the country's 12-mile territorial waters, and also docked in Vietnam.
Through these actions, they were exposed to the deadly toxin, Agent Orange. This tactical defoliant was used by the U.S. military to destroy dense vegetation, plants, and tree leaves that the Viet Cong and Vietnamese troops used for cover. Because the Blue Water Navy sailors never had “boots on the ground,” the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) later denied them disability benefits for Agent Orange-associated diseases.
In early 2019, a federal court ruling in the case Procopio v. Wilkie gave over 90,000 Blue Water Navy vets “presumption of service-connection” for medical conditions linked to Agent Orange. If you're a Blue Water Navy vet and have a disease on the list linked to Agent Orange exposure, you may be eligible for VA benefits if you served on a ship or boat included in the Inshore Fire Support Division 93 or the Mobile Riverine Force.
If you didn’t serve on these ships, you must have worked on a vessel with a specific designation. Here's a short list of those designations:
- AGP (Assault Group Patrol/Patrol Craft Tender)
- LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized)
- LCU (Landing Craft, Utility)
- LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel)
- LST (Landing Ship, Tank)
- PBR (Patrol Boat, River)
- PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast or Swift Boat)
- PG (Patrol Gunboat)
- STABS (Strike Assault Boats)
- WAK (Cargo Vessel)
- WHEC (High Endurance Cutter)
- WLB (Buoy Tender)
- WPB (Patrol Boat)
- YFU (Harbor Utility Craft)
Be sure to check the list of the boats and ships exposed to Agent Orange to see if you might be eligible for VA benefits. It’s possible that even if your ship isn’t listed, you may still qualify for disability.
Ships Not Eligible for VA Benefits
Military personnel who served on ships that sailed in deep-water harbors and bays— including those at Ganh Rai Bay, Ranh Bay Harbor, Qui Nhon Bay Harbor, and Da Nang Harbor—aren't included in the list of vessels eligible for VA benefits.
Because of their open access to the South China Sea and capability for deep-water anchoring, these bays and harbors are considered “offshore waters” of Vietnam.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you served in the Blue Water Navy and believe your disease is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. You may be eligible for VA benefits, and we can help determine if your service vessel meets the requirements for disability.
Call Cuddigan Law to get help with your VA disability application today. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you. Contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Are Blue Water Navy vets eligible for VA benefits?
Yes. For many years after the Vietnam War, sailors who served in the Blue Water Navy and were exposed to Agent Orange but didn’t have “boots on the ground” were denied benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Thousands of service members were exposed to this deadly toxin—a chemical used as a tactical defoliant to remove dense vegetation, tree leaves, plants, and crops that helped conceal the Viet Cong and Vietnamese troops. Exposure to Agent Orange was later linked to serious diseases, but only those who had actually stepped foot on Vietnam soil were eligible for Agent Orange-associated benefits.
Federal Court Ruling: Blue Water Vets Eligible for Benefits
In early 2019, over 90,000 Blue Water Navy vets became eligible for VA benefits after a federal court ruling gave them presumptive disability status. This means Blue Water Navy vets whose ships sailed in inland waters or docked in Vietnam qualify for “presumption of service-connection” for Agent Orange-linked medical conditions.
The ruling was made in the case Procopio v. Wilkie. Alfred Procopio Jr., who suffered from diabetes mellitus and prostate cancer, was denied service-connection benefits because his ship hadn’t sailed in Vietnam’s inland waterways, and he’d never had boots on the ground in the country.
However, both of Procopio’s medical conditions are cited on the VA’s list of presumptive diseases linked with Agent Orange exposure, and the USS Intrepid—the aircraft carrier on which Procopio served—was stationed inside Vietnam’s 12-mile territorial waters.
Procopio sued the VA and won in a 9–to–2 decision, with the court ruling that the Agent Orange Act of 1991 never intended to exclude military personnel who served on the seas. This ruling required the VA to recognize Agent Orange-linked diseases in Blue Water Navy vets. These vets worked aboard ships that pumped in potentially contaminated water used to shower and do laundry, and may have been distilled for drinking.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you're a Blue Water Navy vet and believe your medical condition is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. You’re now eligible for VA benefits, and we can help prove your disease qualifies for compensation. Call Cuddigan Law to get help with your VA disability application today. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you—contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
How is my service-connected PTSD linked to panic attacks?
Veterans who suffer from panic disorder (PD) may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two conditions are known to be comorbid—the presence of one or more disorders co-occurring with a primary disease.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately six million Americans are impacted by PD, and nearly eight million will be affected by PTSD.
If you’re a veteran who suffers from either or both of these conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But it’s important to hire a skilled VA disability lawyer to help with your claim.
Understanding PTSD and Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks that happen unexpectedly and cause people to have feelings of fear and terror when there's no evidence of real danger. Individuals may feel weak and dizzy, have difficulty breathing, and feel they're losing control.
PTSD, on the other hand, is a mental health condition often triggered by memories of a traumatic or life-threatening event.
People may suffer flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme anxiety about what they experienced, and these symptoms may not present for years after the event.
Most individuals are able to cope with memories of terrible things that happened to them, but those who aren’t often find their anxiety interferes with daily routines and functioning in occupational and social environments.
Although both PD and PTSD sufferers have” heightened sensitivity to threat,” the anxiety felt by those suffering from PTSD isn't a panic attack, even though for many it can feel the same. Instead, the anxiety occurs because the dreams and flashbacks cause them to re-experience the trauma. However, sufferers of either disorder may use “avoidance” as a way to cope and survive.
Contact Cuddigan Law
For veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or PD, it’s possible to qualify for financial help. If your mental health condition is service-connected and you want to file for disability, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
As a veteran, what should I know about panic attacks?
Veterans who suffer from panic attacks often experience sudden feelings of apprehension, terror, nervousness, and/or fear. These symptoms can occur unexpectedly for no reason, or because of a known “stressor,” with an attack usually peaking within the first 10 minutes.
Often, the symptoms are so extreme that an entire day can be disrupted, and individuals may feel stressed out or “keyed up” for many hours following the attack.
Your Questions Answered About Panic Attacks
If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected panic disorder, you may have many questions about what causes this condition, how to cope with it, and if you can get benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Here are answers to frequently asked questions about panic attacks
What mental illnesses qualify for VA benefits, and are panic attacks included?
If you can provide the VA with a diagnosis in one of the following categories and give evidence that shows your mental illness is service-connected, you may be eligible for benefits. These categories include:
- Anxiety—this includes post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
- Mood disorders
- Chronic adjustment disorder
- Cognitive disorders
- Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia
- Somatoform disorders, including mental disorders that present as unexplained physical ailments
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia
What if my panic attacks were a preexisting condition?
If you were diagnosed with panic disorder before you went into the military, you could qualify for VA benefits if you can prove that your service worsened or aggravated your condition beyond what would be considered its normal progression.
If the VA agrees that your mental illness has worsened due to your military service, it will classify your condition as “service-connection based on aggravation by such service.”
What does it mean if I receive a 0 percent rating for my panic disorder?
Your panic disorder is rated by the VA based on its severity. If your mental illness impacts your daily life and interferes with your ability to manage a normal routine, the VA gives you a higher rating. For example, if you receive a rating of 100 percent, the VA believes you have complete and total impairment on the job and in a social environment.
However, if you receive a 0 percent rating, the VA still recognizes your mental illness but believes your symptoms don’t interfere with work or social functioning, and you don’t require ongoing medication. While you won’t receive financial benefits for this rating, you may be eligible for health care.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran with service-connected panic attacks, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
How do I get disability for PTSD secondary hypertension related to my time in the service?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after someone witnesses or experiences a life-threatening, traumatic, or terrifying event.
Veterans who suffer from service-connected PTSD may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision loss, kidney and heart disease, and stroke.
According to research cited by the American Heart Association, soldiers in the U.S. military who were severely injured during the Afghanistan or Iraq wars or diagnosed with PTSD are at a greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
Additionally, researchers have found that soldiers who suffered from PTSD were up to 85 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn't have PTSD. The more severely injured the soldier, the more likely she was to have hypertension.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes hypertension as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your hypertension is related to your service-connected PTSD, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help file your claim for compensation.
VA Disability for Secondary Hypertension
To receive a disability rating for PTSD secondary hypertension, your doctor needs to document your diagnosis of high blood pressure. Additionally, to file your claim, your doctor needs to fill out the Hypertension Disability Benefits Questionnaire. It’s important to note that you can’t fill out this form yourself—the VA won’t accept the form submitted by a veteran. It must come from a licensed physician.
When filling out the form, your doctor needs to include two important pieces of information:
- A detailed medical history about your condition, your symptoms, and any other relevant information that affect the decision by the VA.
- A professional opinion about how your hypertension impacts your ability to perform on the job.
The claims examiner reviews this information and assigns a disability rating for your high blood pressure.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran suffering from hypertension due to PTSD and would like to submit an application for hypertension as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law.
Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.
How does the VA rate PTSD?
Many people experience a traumatic, terrifying event in life, and they may face difficulty handling memories of that event. But with time and treatment, they're often able to adjust and overcome the incident.
However, others may experience symptoms that last for months or years. If a person continues to have flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety about the event; and these issues interfere with day-to-day life, she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental condition can prevent a person from living a normal life.
For veterans, PTSD and depression are the most common mental health problems.
How the VA Rates PTSD
If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected PTSD, the VA will give your condition one of the following percentage ratings:
- 100: To receive a 100 percent disability rating, you must present complete occupational and social impairment. This might be due to any number of symptoms, including ongoing hallucinations, extreme inappropriate behavior, danger of self-harm, inability to perform daily maintenance and personal hygiene tasks, disorientation, and memory loss.
- 70: To receive a 70 percent rating, you must present impairment with deficiencies in ability to work, go to school, and think clearly. Detailed symptoms may include suicidal thoughts, illogical speech, difficulty managing stressful situations, and inability to maintain family or friend relationships.
- 50: To receive a 50 percent rating, impairment must present reduced productivity and reliability. Symptoms may include panic attacks that occur more than once a week; problems with long- and short-term memory; flawed judgment; and mood disturbances.
- 30: To receive a 30 percent rating, you must demonstrate a decrease in work efficiency and periods when you can’t perform certain work tasks. Overall, however, functioning is satisfactory. Symptoms may be depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
- 10: Veterans who receive a 10 percent rating present mild symptoms that decrease their ability to perform work tasks when they’re under extreme stress or need to take medication to control their symptoms.
- 0: The VA will give a veteran a 0 percent rating who is formally diagnosed with PTSD, but doesn't have symptoms that interfere with social or occupational functioning.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran with service-connected PTSD and want to file for disability; want to understand how to increase your rating; or believe that the rating your received is inaccurate, contact Cuddigan Law.
Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
Why does OSA cause depression, and can I get VA disability for this secondary condition?
Veterans who suffer from service-connected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including depression. OSA is a sleep disorder that causes the throat muscles of a sleeping person to relax and ultimately, block the airway—reducing the oxygen reaching her lungs. Because a veteran with OSA never gets the chance to fully rest at night, she may experience problems staying awake and face extreme exhaustion.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes depression as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your OSA is service-connected and believe you’re suffering depression because of it, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help appeal your claim for compensation.
The Link Between OSA and Depression
A variety of studies report the link between OSA and depression. People who suffer from OSA are much more likely to experience depression than those who don’t have OSA. Reports show that patients who suffer from OSA are 21–39 percent more likely to have depression.
It’s been debated whether there’s a direct link between OSA and depression, or whether there’s simply a correlation. There are a number of thoughts on this issue:
- One theory suggests that because patients with OSA suffer a lack of oxygen, it may cause problems in the brain and body that can lead to depression. Additionally, OSA may cause inflammation in the body and affect “neurotransmitter activity,” which could contribute to the symptoms of depression.
- A second theory suggests that because OSA causes fatigue, exhaustion, and daytime sleepiness, managing the requirements of a normal routine becomes increasingly more challenging. The difficulty in handling daily life can trigger depression. There are clinical studies to support this, as OSA and extreme drowsiness and fatigue are linked with depression.
Depression and Qualifying for Benefits
Your chances of receiving an approved claim for secondary depression depends on if you can prove your service-connected OSA is the cause. It’s important that your doctor write a letter of opinion about your condition with:
- A diagnosis of depression—either major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder
- Evidence that your sleep disorder likely caused your depression
It’s also important that you provide the appropriate documentation—medical reports and test results that show the link between your depression and OSA.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to OSA and would like to submit an application for depression as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.