VA announces change in Agent Orange benefit claims process

The Veterans Affairs Department is easing the standards under which Vietnam War veterans qualify for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Monday announced the department is adding three illnesses to the list of conditions for which veterans aren't required to demonstrate a connection to military service. The final rule, to be published in Tuesday's Federal Register, states VA will presume veterans with Parkinson's Disease, ischemic heart disease and all chronic B cell leukemia have been exposed to Agent Orange.

Shinseki's decision is based on a 2008 study from the Institute of Medicine on health problems Agent Orange causes. Veterans who served in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to the herbicide.

VA expects more than 150,000 veterans to submit Agent Orange claims in the next 12 to 18 months and will review approximately 90,000 previously denied claims. The new regulation will speed the claims process and result in faster distribution of benefits, which could amount to $13 billion in the next year, according to department officials.

In a Saturday speech at the American Legion National Convention, VA acting Secretary for Benefits Michael Walcoff defended Shinseki's decision against criticism of the program's potential cost.

"The fact is we're obeying the law," Walcoff said. "The law says that anybody who was in country is entitled to the presumptions. Besides that, I believe that what we're doing is the right thing to do. It's what [Secretary Shinseki] wants to do."

But Walcoff added the new claims process won't take effect immediately. VA can begin awarding benefits for new claims and making retroactive payments for earlier applications only following a 60-day congressional review period after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

VA officials in July announced a new rule making it easier for veterans to submit claims and receive compensation for service-related post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the guidelines, a veteran's statement alone can be considered evidence of a PTSD-causing event, though a VA psychiatrist or psychologist must verify the veteran is experiencing PTSD and that the claim is consistent with service performed.

Shinseki will testify before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Sept. 23 on the new Agent Orange rule.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.