Washington, D.C. – Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving in Vietnam and other areas will soon more easily qualify for disability pay under a regulation published tomorrow by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The new rule expands the list of health problems VA will “presume” to be related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.
Under existing regulations, veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association between their medical problems and their military service. Adding to the list of illnesses and conditions presumed to be connected to herbicide exposure simplifies and speeds up the application process for veterans suffering from those conditions.
The new rule expands the list of conditions for which service connection for Vietnam veterans is presumed. The VA is adding Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease and expanding chronic lymphocytic leukemia to include all chronic B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said the decision is based on the requirements of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 Update on Agent Orange.
“This is an important moment for veterans who waited years for the support they deserved all along,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of the decision. “Anyone who believes they were exposed to Agent Orange or other chemicals should immediately find out how this rule could help them. This decision is clearly overdue, and I applaud the VA for doing the right thing before any more veterans suffer needlessly.”
Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. More than 150,000 Veterans are expected to submit Agent Orange claims in the next 12 to 18 months, many of whom are potentially eligible for retroactive disability payments based on past claims.
Individuals can visit http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/AO/claimherbicide.htm to get an understanding of how to file a claim for presumptive conditions related to herbicide exposure, as well as what evidence is needed by the VA to make a decision about disability compensation or survivors benefits.
Additional information about Agent Orange and VA services for veterans exposed to the chemical is available at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.