WASHINGTON, DC–More than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits have been paid to approximately 89,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors who filed claims related to one of three new Agent Orange presumptive conditions in the last year. On August 31, 2010, VA amended regulations to add ischemic heart disease, hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease to the list of diseases presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.
This is a little more than half of the number of potential veterans and survivors VA estimated were eligible to apply for such benefits. When VA first changed the regulations a year ago, it estimated that as many as 189,000 claims could be filed, resulting in payouts of as much as $42 billion in the first decade.
The change in regulations came after years of lobbying by veterans service organizations (VSOs), who argued that the effects of Agent Orange were wider and more varied than previously assumed, and an Institute of Medicine report indicating an association between certain herbicides and these three conditions.
For new claims, VA may authorize up to one year of retroactive benefits if a veteran can show that he or she has experienced one of those conditions since the date of the regulatory change. VA has also reviewed, and continues to review, thousands of previously filed claims that may qualify for retroactive benefits under a long-standing court order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Nehmer vs. U.S. Veterans Administration. The judge in the case ruled that whenever VA issues new determinations designating particular diseases as service connected, it just readjudicate all claims of all veterans suffering from them if their previously filed claims were denied or are still pending.
The Agent Orange Claims Processing System website is located at https://www.fasttrack.va.gov/AOFastTrack/ and may be used to submit claims related to the three new presumptive conditions.