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Are you eligible for veterans’ benefits based on presumptive conditions?

13 mins read
Larry Dandridge

A recent and important message from the Veterans Benefits Administration (Veteransbenefits@messages.va.gov) dated 18 November 2021, at 10:33 a.m., with a subject of “New Presumptive. Are you eligible?” reminded many veterans that the VA has begun processing service-connected disability claims for six new presumptive conditions related to environmental exposures during military service. The VA also requested that veterans help in making more veterans aware of these newly added presumptive conditions.

Because The Island News is dedicated to supporting our military members, veterans, and their families, we wrote this article to help veterans understand what presumptive conditions are and to provide information on how to file a claim for VA disability benefits, including disability compensation and medical care.

In May 2021, the VA started implementing provisions of the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for the 2021 fiscal year, adding bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the list of medical conditions presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange. A few months later, the VA added asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis (to include rhinosinusitis) on a presumptive basis based on particulate matter exposures during military service in Southwest Asia and certain other areas.

Any veteran who was previously denied service-connection for any of these six conditions but had symptoms manifest within 10 years of military service need to file a supplemental claim. Be sure to use VA Form 20-0995, the Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim Form, found at https://bit.ly/318sZLt when filing. The claim form should include the name of the condition and the condition being claimed due to in-service exposure to environmental hazards.

The VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. If one of these conditions is diagnosed in a veteran in one of these groups, the VA presumes that the circumstances of service caused the condition, and disability compensation can be awarded.

The following diseases and conditions are considered to be part of this VA’s presumptive program:

Camp Lejeune – Veterans may be eligible for VA health and compensation benefits if they served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Aug 1, 1953 and Dec 31, 1987. Qualifying health conditions for VA Medical Care include kidney cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, female infertility, hepatic steatosis, leukemia, miscarriage, multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes, neurobehavioral effects, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal toxicity, and scleroderma.

A Camp Lejeune veteran does not need to have one of the 15 health conditions to be eligible to receive VA health care, nor do they need a service-connected disability to be eligible as a Camp Lejeune veteran for VA health care. The area included in this presumption is all of Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River, including satellite camps and housing areas.

At any time after separation from service a veteran may be eligible for compensation for that presumptive disability. To be eligible, the Veteran must have served a minimum of 90 consecutive days of active service.

Vietnam – A veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used there. The following conditions are considered presumptive service-connected for exposed veterans: prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease (including but not limited to, coronary artery disease and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease), AL amyloidosis, B-cell leukemia, bladder cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, Type II diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, hypothyroidism, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonism, and soft-tissue sarcoma (not including osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or mesothelioma).

The following conditions, if they become greater than 10 percent debilitating within a year of exposure to an herbicide agent: Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, chloracne, or other similar acneiform disease and Porphyria cutanea tarda. Read more about Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions at https://bit.ly/3rdaWyC.

Radiation Exposed Veterans – For veterans who participated in radiation risk activities while on active duty, the following conditions are presumed to be service connected: All forms of leukemia, except chronic lymphocytic leukemia; Primary liver cancer, except if there are indications of cirrhosis or hepatitis B; cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract, brain, bone, lung, colon or ovary; bronchioloalveolar carcinoma; multiple myeloma; and Lymphomas, other than Hodgkin’s disease. Read more about radiation exposures at https://bit.ly/3lgtvhs.

Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation are eligible as presumptive, if the Veteran participated in atmospheric nuclear testing, occupied or were prisoners of war in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, served before Feb. 1, 1992, at a diffusion plant in Paducah, Ky.; Portsmouth, Ohio; or Oak Ridge, Tenn., or served before Jan. 1, 1974, at Amchitka Island.

Gulf War Veterans (Whose symptoms appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by Dec. 31, 2021) – The VA presumes that Gulf War Veterans with unexplained symptoms are related to Gulf War service, if a Veteran has experienced them for six months or more. The presumptive illness(es) must have first appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by Dec. 31, 2021, and be at least 10 percent disabling.

If you are a Gulf War Veteran who may experience a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems, the VA presumes that some health conditions were caused by military service. Specific presumed conditions include: medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses such as: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, any diagnosed or undiagnosed illness that warrants a presumption of service connection, as determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Updated September 2021. Read more about Gulf War Veteran Presumptive diseases at https://bit.ly/3pdddHz.

Prisoners Of War (Imprisoned for any length of time) – For former POWs who were imprisoned for any length of time, the following disabilities are presumed to be service connected if they become at least 10 percent disabling any time after military service: psychosis, anxiety, dysthymic disorder, organic residuals of frostbite, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, atherosclerotic heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease and their complications, stroke and its complications, and, effective Oct. 10, 2008, osteoporosis if the veteran has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Prisoners Of War (Imprisoned for at least 30 days) – For former POWs who were imprisoned for at least 30 days, the following conditions are also presumed to be service connected: avitaminosis, beriberi, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis, malnutrition (including optic atrophy associated with malnutrition), pellagra and/or other nutritional deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral neuropathy except where related to infectious causes, cirrhosis of the liver, and osteoporosis.

Gulf War Veterans (Who served in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations or in Afghanistan on or after Sept. 19, 2001) – The VA presumes that Gulf War Veterans who manifest one of the following infectious diseases to a degree of 10 percent or more within 1 year of separation: Brucellosis, Campylo-bacterjejuni, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, West Nile virus, Malaria (or when accepted treatises indicate the incubation period began during a qualifying period of service), Manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more at any time after separation: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or Visceral leishmaniasis.

Gulf War Deployed Veterans (Who served any length of time in the Southwest Asia during the Persian Gulf War, or served any length of time in Afghanistan, Syria, Djibouti or Uzbekistan on or after Sept. 19, 2001) – The VA presumes that Gulf War Veterans who manifests one of the following to any degree within 10 years from the date of separation from military service: Asthma, Rhinitis, and Sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis.

Learn more

Go online to read the VA’s informative Presumptive Disability Benefits Fact Sheet. The fact sheet is found at https://bit.ly/3FTP2o6.

Go online to https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/ to review VA disability benefits eligibility criteria, for veterans and dependents, to find out if you can get disability compensation for an illness or injury that was caused by — or got worse because of — your active military service. Compensation may include financial support and other benefits like health care.

Go online at https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/ to find out How to file a VA disability claim.

Go online at https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/ to read about exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials. Find out if you can get disability compensation (monthly payments) and other benefits for illnesses, birth defects, or other conditions, caused by Agent Orange, Asbestos, Mustard Gas or Lewisite, contaminated drinking water, chemical testing, radiation, and other Hazardous Materials.

You can also read more about veterans’ health care and disability compensation for presumptive conditions at https://www.military.com/benefits/veterans-health-care/disability-compensation-for-presumptive-conditions.html.

There is too much information about presumptive conditions for VA benefits for one newspaper article. The filing of a claim with the state, VA, or military service for benefits earned through military service can be complex and confusing. A good source for free help is a Veteran Service Officer (VSO). County and state VSO services are FREE.

The Beaufort County Veterans Affairs Office is located at 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, S.C. 29906, (phone 843-255-6880) and requires an appointment. Read about the services provided by the Beaufort Vets Service Office at https//www.beaufortcountysc.gov/veterans-affairs/index.html. You can find a list of all S.C. County Veterans Service Offices at https://scdva.sc.gov/county-veterans-affairs-offices.

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and free-lance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net.

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