VA News 04/02/20

By RON HOLLOWAY,

A provision in the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 required VA to explain to Congress by the end of January why there has been a delay in announcing any decisions for adding diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

According to the January issue of Military Times report, VA Secretary Wilkie is stating that a VA decision on adding Agent Orange presumptive conditions would not be ready until at least late in 2020.

Last year during a Congressional testimony, Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration said a decision on three illnesses potentially connected to Agent Orange exposure were likely to be announced in 2019.  However the VA never announced any additions to the Agent Orange presumptive diseases list. 

In November 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published an update on Agent Orange.  The report linked Agent Orange exposure to hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, a condition with no symptoms that is caused when an abnormal protein is present in the blood stream.  The report also recommended that VA add these conditions to the current list of 14 Agent Orange presumptive diseases. 

In 2016, the Academies published findings that suggests bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s like tremors also could have been caused by Agent Orange exposure.

It is my suggestion for all veterans, both those who served in Vietnam and as Blue Water veterans, even if you served off the coast of Thailand, to come by the office and fill the VA form 21-0966.  By submitting this form, you will be indicating your intent to apply for one or more general benefits under the laws administered by VA. When you submit this form, it is not a claim for benefits, you have to submit the claim once these presumptive diseases are added but by submitting the form VA will pay you from the date of submission as long as it is within one year of the date VA receives this form. 

So, what this means: We are gambling that the VA will make these diseases presumptive by the end of the year,  By turning in the 21-0966 we will be holding a spot for our claim from the date the form is submitted, let’s say it is the 1st of April of 2020.  VA adds these presumptive diseases to their list in January of 2021;  you in-turn file you claim in March of 2021 and it is approved, then you should get back pay to the date you submitted the 21-0996, which was 1 April 2020, that’s almost a years back pay, well worth the few minutes it takes to fill the form.