A recent U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims case pushed Vietnam-era Agent Orange exposure back into the news, and may slow down the already sluggish Veteran’s Affairs claims process.
At the end of August, the VA added ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia to the list of diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. The VA announced that sufferers of those diseases may now be eligible for additional benefits because of their exposure.
More than 163,000 veterans or survivors of veterans have a pending claim related to these diseases. The VA hopes to have them all paid out by October of 2011. To meet this goal, some believe the VA has given special attention to the new cases and other veterans may see longer waiting times as a result.
“We have been hearing from the VA that the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has told it to process these claims prior to ruling on other claims,” said James G. Fausone, a lawyer who works for Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC. “As a result, we have been receiving word from local Regional Offices that the normal ‘slow’ process at VA has been slowed even further because the VA has been focusing on these claims and not working on the other claims.”
Prior to the announcement, 93,000 previously denied claims hung in limbo in the system. After the announcement, 70,000 more veterans stormed the system, claiming that they suffered from the new diseases covered under the announcement. The VA expects five to 10 percent of the previously denied claims to be rejected once again due to “imprecision” in diagnostic codes and because they simply cannot reach many veterans due to movings or death.
“This announcement is great for the veterans who put their lives on the line in Vietnam, were exposed to dangerous herbicides without knowledge that they were harmful, and suffered negative health effects as a consequence,” Fausone said. “It is unfortunate that many who have suffered because of Agent Orange had to wait so long for care. It is equally unfortunate that the system cannot handle all of these claims more quickly and efficiently, so veterans can move on with their lives.”
To learn more or to contact a Veterans disability lawyer or Veterans attorney call 1.800.693.4800 or visit http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com.