The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced three new illnesses that it considers to be related to Agent Orange exposure. The decision is expected to provide additional health benefits to approximately 50,000 veterans and their survivors whose claims were previously denied.
Past cases involving claims of service-related bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms will be automatically reviewed and could provide recipients up to thousands of dollars a month. Other related claims will be processed “soon,” the department said in a statement.
“Many of our nation’s veterans have waited a long time for these benefits,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “VA will not make them wait any longer. This is absolutely the right thing to do for veterans and their families.”
Last year, Congress members voted for the VA to adopt findings by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that linked the three diseases to Agent Orange Exposure. Now, because of a 1991 consent decree pushed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), the VA is required to evaluate past denied claims whenever new scientific evidence is found.
“The VA’s agreement to identify and pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam veterans and their survivors who previously were denied benefits for these three diseases related to Agent Orange exposure will be of great help to those who have long suffered due to their wartime service in Vietnam,” NVLSP Executive Director Bart Stichman told AARP.
Retroactive benefits for Blue Water veterans
In April the VA identified 60,942 other denied benefit claims to review for retroactive benefits for Agent Orange exposure. The claims were filed by so-called Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans, service members who were stationed on ships in deep waters off the coast of Vietnam during the war.