On January 1, 2021 the Veterans Administration (VA) added bladder cancer, Parkinsonism or Parkinson’s like symptoms, and Hypothyroidism to the presumptive medical condition list due to Agent Orange exposure while serving in Vietnam. Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide that the United States Military used to spray on the foliage and near the canals in an attempt to provide a military advantage for US military and was easily identified by the orange stripe painted around the container. The VA has identified a total of 20 diseases that it will now “presume” are a result of the veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
Previously, on June 25, 2019 the President signed the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act”, which expanded the Vietnam presumptive area to include an area of 14 nautical miles from the coast of Vietnam. The Blue Water Navy Act has since required the VA to dedicate many resources to identifying the ships that traveled into this area during the entirety of the Vietnam War. The addition of these two significant milestones in benefits for Vietnam Era Veterans resulted in the VA identifying over 63,000 cases that required readjudication.
In May of 2021, the VA began the process of sending letters to all veterans and surviving spouses that were impacted by these decisions. The Nevada County Veterans Services Office has been assisting veterans understand why they are receiving these letters and if they need to do anything. In these letters the VA is informing the veteran or applicant that there has been a change in law and that it could impact their previous claim. The letter further informs the veteran that the VA will be reviewing the claim with the evidence on file and if there is additional evidence to please submit it. The veteran only needs to respond to these letters if they have additional medical evidence to submit to the VA.
However, the VA is not able to identify those veterans who never filed a claim for these conditions. The addition of these three conditions not only impacts our Vietnam Veterans who are still living, but it also has a positive impact on surviving spouses of veterans from this era. If a veteran died from one these added conditions, his or her surviving spouse is automatically eligible for survivor’s benefits from the VA. Our office is here to assist those individuals who are now be eligible for benefits from the as a surviving spouse.
Additionally, the VA is initiating rulemaking to address the role that exposure to particulate matter pollution plays in generating chronic respiratory conditions, which may include asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis. Federal regulations define the locations subject to presumptive exposure as:
Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.
The significant part of this ruling is that includes that airspace above the listed locations. This is not written into the regulations for our Vietnam Veterans and allows thousands of additional veterans to be eligible for benefits if they served in these locations and have developed asthma, bronchitis, or sinusitis.
The VA, for purposes of this rulemaking, also will include a period of active military, naval, or air service on or after September 19, 2001 in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. It is important that every veteran who was previously denied for these new presumptive conditions visit your Nevada County Veterans Services Office to obtain assistance with re-submitting his or her claim to the VA. Any veteran who served in one of these areas and has developed a respiratory condition should also file visit our office to receive assistance when submitting a claim for compensation to the VA.
Finally, for our veterans who served during our current conflicts and are suffering from conditions that the VA has not determined are a result to the exposure to toxins during their war. Come visit us and let us assist you with developing a strong claim with the VA for compensation. The more veterans from these current conflicts who submit claims for health conditions that they are suffering from, will only help assist with placing more health conditions on their own presumptive list for exposure to environmental toxins.
David West is the Nevada County Veterans Service Officer. Reach him at (530) 265-1446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Nevada County Veteran’s Services Office, 988 McCourtney Rd, Grass Valley, CA, is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.