Still no decision from VA on benefits for veterans with diseases linked to Agent Orange

Abbie Bennett
July 01, 2019 - 4:11 pm

Photo courtesy of courtney.house.gov

In March, Veterans Health Administration leaders said the VA would make a decision on whether to grant disability benefits to veterans with diseases linked to Agent Orange in 90 days.

But that deadline has now passed and no decision has been made, VA officials told Connecting Vets. 

An Institute of Medicine report in 2016 found evidence that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease have likely links to the toxic herbicide. In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences found evidence linking hypertension, or high blood pressure, to Agent Orange as well. 

The VA has yet to make a decision that would include those diseases in a list of health concerns presumed to be caused by the toxin. 

"VA has no announcements on Agent Orange presumptive conditions at this time," VA spokesman Randal Noller told Connecting Vets. 

VA did not respond to requests for comment on whether or not there was a timeline for the decision. 

Three months have already passed since Dr. Richard Stone, acting head of the VHA, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he "hoped within the next 90 days that we'll have some decisions made." 

Last month, some veterans won a landmark victory after fighting to receive presumptive disability benefits from VA for decades. Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans now qualify for disability benefits based on the Procopio v. Wilkie court decision and a controversial piece of legislation recently signed by President Donald Trump. 

Veterans who qualify for presumptive benefits because of Agent Orange exposure don't have to prove that their health concerns are specifically service connected to receive their benefits -- only that they served in an area where the toxic herbicide was allegedly used. But because some diseases currently aren't specifically linked to Agent Orange, those veterans who suspect their health issues are linked to exposure must prove it. 

Blue Water veterans previously denied Agent Orange exposure-related benefits can get help from the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) by email at bluewater2019@nvlsp.org or by phone at 855-333-0677. For more information, click here. 

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Follow Abbie Bennett, @AbbieRBennett.