In April 1975 the war in Vietnam ended for U.S. service members, but the fight on behalf of thousands of veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other defoliants still goes on. Recently three new conditions were added to the list of presumptive conditions related to these toxic chemicals widely used in Southeast Asia during the war. If a veteran is diagnosed with a disease classified as presumptive, that veteran can qualify for disability benefits without the burden of proving the condition was caused by military service.
This new development means that tens of thousands of veterans will now be eligible for VA disability benefits if their Agent Orange exposure resulted in bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, or Parkinson’s Disease-like symptoms.
Many veterans who were exposed to defoliants like Agent Orange have developed serious health conditions. Often symptoms do not appear until years after exposure. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established a presumption of service connection which meant that for VA disability cases the VA must assume that veterans who served in certain locations and during certain time periods were exposed to toxic chemicals. It means these veterans no longer have to provide proof of an in-service event, injury, or illness that led to their disabilities.
Usually, presumptive conditions are set by the VA, based on significant supporting evidence from scientific studies. However, in this case, the new illnesses were added by Congress as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The National Defense Authorization Act is a usually routine policy and spending bill for the Defense Department that passes through Congress every year.
We encourage veterans who have been diagnosed with one of these newly designated illnesses and haven’t filed for disability to submit a claim right away. And those whose claims were denied should now re-file for benefits through the VA. If you’re a family member of a Vietnam-era veteran who has died as a result of one of the newly added presumptive conditions, you’re also encouraged to apply on the veteran's behalf.
If you want to file for VA benefits or if you want to appeal a rating decision, contact us at Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case to advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today for a free evaluation of your situation.