The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced its plans on May 27, 2021, to automatically review disability claims benefits for veterans living with Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism—three presumptive conditions related to their exposure to Agent Orange. Advocacy from VetsFirst and other stakeholders led to these three conditions being added to the list of presumptions through the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, in December 2020.
Advocacy from VetsFirst and other stakeholders led to these three conditions being added to the list of presumptions through the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, in December 2020. In the announcement, VA confirmed that it will apply the provisions of court orders related to Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Vietnam-era veterans and their survivors, who previously filed and were denied benefits for one of these three new presumptive conditions, will have their cases automatically reviewed without the need to refile a claim. Affected veterans and survivors will receive letters from VA informing them of their claims status.
VA also announced that it initiated rulemaking to consider adding respiratory conditions, which may include asthma, sinusitis, and rhinitis, to the list of chronic disabilities, based on an association with military service in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan during the covered periods of conflict. These 3 additional conditions follow the VetsFirst-supported Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (P.L/. 116-23) that guarantees veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam can access VA health care and benefits related to their exposure from Agent Orange. This is a significant win for Vietnam era veterans. Many of have waited a long time for these benefits and VetsFirst looks forward to working with VA to implement these changes as swiftly as possible.
The bill was signed into law on June 25, 2019, with an effective date of January 1, 2020. For more information, click here.