Important News for Vietnam Veterans and Their Surviving Spouses

On October 13, 2009, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decided to establish service connection for Vietnam veterans with three conditions: Parkinson’s, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease.  These join the already established conditions of:

* diabetes type II
* acute and sub-acute peripheral neuropathy
* chloracne and porphyria cutanea tarda
* chronic lymphocytic leukemia
* prostate and respiratory cancers
* Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
* Multiple myeloma and soft tissue sarcoma, acute

This is MAJOR news for our Vietnam veterans who suffer with any of these diseases.  It is also MAJOR news for the surviving spouses of Vietnam veterans who died of any of these diseases.

In the case of a surviving spouse, either the veteran’s death certificate should list one of these presumptive diseases as cause of death OR the cause of death must be linked to one of these diseases.

The decision to add these three new conditions was based on scientific evidence linking these conditions to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide sprayed in Vietnam.  As in all other conditions, the VA typically requires proof of “boot on the ground” in most cases or proof of direct exposure to Agent Orange.

Veterans (and surviving spouses) who qualify for these benefits are urged to submit a claim to help lock in a retro-active payment date.

Source: The November 2009 Veterans Family Matters Newsletter from Veterans Information Services, Inc.

(I previously blogged about the Secretary Shinseki’s decision to establish a presumption of service-connection for Vietnam Veterans who suffer from Parkinson’s, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease here.)

UPDATED ON 3/25/10 – Proposed regulations establishing service connection for Vietnam veterans with Parkinson’s, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease were recently published in the Vol. 75, No. 57 of the Federal Register, which can be found here – Federal Register. Comments must be submitted on or before April 26, 2010.