VA flood of about 200,000 Agent Orange-related claims

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Four months or more may not seem that bad but would your mortgage company or landlord wait that long?  Would the grocery store? How about the gas station? What are disabled veterans supposed to do while they wait until next year for the backlog of claims to end? Some will join the other veterans trying to figure out where they are supposed to live when they lose their homes. Other families will fall apart because of all the extra stress on their shoulders. What do they get after waiting? Is there any promise the claims that should be honored will be honored?

Any promise that a veteran with a 100% disability will be compensated at that level instead of a lower level forcing them to file an appeal without the prorating back to the original filing of the claim? No promises at all.

With all of this consider how long Korean and Vietnam Veterans have had to wait to be treated for what our own military did to them.

VA set to reverse claims backlog by 2012

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 14, 2011 9:46:51 EST

This will happen once a temporary flood of about 200,000 Agent Orange-related claims — the result of a recent change in rules — works its way through the system, which could be as early as September.

Veterans Affairs Department officials say they can now see an end to the long nightmare of an ever-growing mountain of disability and compensation claims that has long infuriated veterans and their families.

By 2012, they expect dramatic improvements in both the speed and accuracy of claims processing.

But progress is difficult to discern now, at a time when VA has more than 783,000 pending claims — about 44 percent of them pending for more than 125 days. The total is up by 20,000 since the start of this year.

But VA’s acting undersecretary for benefits and chief information officer were both optimistic in a Feb. 8 interview that a mixture of automation initiatives, improved claims management processes and attitude adjustments among VA workers will turn the tide.
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VA set to reverse claims backlog by 2012

The list of diseases has grown over the years.

Agent Orange Office of Public Health

Veterans’ Diseases Associated with Agent Orange Exposure
Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits for diseases that VA has recognized as associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.

Surviving spouses, children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and died as the result of diseases associated with Agent Orange may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is not associated with Agent Orange exposure. However, VA has recognized ALS diagnosed in Veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the military was caused by their military service. Learn about benefits for ALS, including VA health care benefits and disability compensation and other non-health benefits.

Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides and resolve within 2 years after the date it began.
AL Amyloidosis
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.

Chloracne (or Similar Acneform Disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, chloracne (or other acneform disease similar to chloracne) must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.

Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells. VA’s regulation recognizing all chronic B-cell leukemias as related to exposure to herbicides took effect on October 30, 2010.

Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.

Hodgkin’s Disease
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.

Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain. VA’s regulation recognizing ischemic heart disease as related to exposure to herbicides took effect on October 30, 2010.

Multiple Myeloma
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.

Parkinson’s Disease
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement. VA’s regulation recognizing Parkinson’s disease as related to exposure to herbicides took effect on October 30, 2010.

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.

Prostate Cancer
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.

Respiratory Cancers
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.

But it isn’t just their health. It is their children as well.

Agent Orange: Birth Defects in Children of Vietnam and Korea Veterans
According to VA’s final rule* published January 25, 2011 in the Federal Register, Veterans who served in a unit in or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.

VA has recognized that certain birth defects among Veterans’ children are associated with Veterans’ qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea.

Spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta), a defect in the developing fetus that results in incomplete closing of the spine, is associated with Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange during qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea.
Birth defects in children of women Veterans is associated with their military service in Vietnam, but are not related to herbicide exposure.
The affected child must have been conceived after the Veteran entered Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone during the qualifying service period.

Brown Water, Blue Water

Inside Vietnam or Korea Exposure to Agent Orange

Vietnam: Veterans who served on land in Vietnam, went ashore, or served on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and who have a disease that VA recognizes as associated with Agent Orange exposure are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. This includes:

“Brown Water Veterans” who served aboard river patrol and swift boats that operated on inland waterways anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
“Blue Water Veterans” who went ashore when a ship docked to the shore of Vietnam or served aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
Korea: Veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 and have a disease VA recognizes as associated with Agent Orange exposure are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.

Eligible Veterans with diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure do not have to prove that their diseases are related to their military service to qualify for disability compensation.

Veterans that believe they have a disease caused by herbicide exposure, but it is not on VA’s list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, may be eligible for service connection on a “direct” basis. These Veterans must show that their diseases are related their military service to get disability compensation.

While the VA has tried to do the right thing finally for these veterans, they have waited and fought long enough to have the government accept responsibility for what happened to them while they served this country. All veterans should have their claims honored as soon as possible but as newer veterans attempt to enter into the system, the practice of pushing older veterans to the back of the line needs to end. If the VA does not have enough room for all the veterans, then they need to make room or stop turning more men and women into disabled veterans.

How many more will have to wait month after month without any way possible to pay their bills to live?

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