Intro

Discover the latest news affecting YOUR military disability right here!

Since the majority of our news will cover legal issues that can be dragged out for a long time, if you'd like an update on an issue, let us know, and we'll do what we can. Most of the time, no post=no update.

This page is strictly for the latest and upcoming news. If you are looking for specific information about the current disability system or your disability, see our blog or our website, www.MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com, for all the answers you'll need.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The 3 new Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions – When will you get your benefits?!


Last week, the VA issued a press release stating that they were finally going to “begin implementing provisions” to get Vietnam-Era vets benefits for the three new conditions on the Agent Orange Presumptive List:  bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.  

However, this statement is still incredibly vague. The VA has not yet replied to our requests for further information, and their official page on the Agent Orange Presumptive List still does not include these three new conditions (nor do any of the federal code archives, for that matter, despite the fact that the statute adding these conditions was officially made law in January).

 

So what does this all mean? The truth:  We don’t really know.

 

While we may not have firm answers for everything, here is what we DO know and what we can surmise from it.

 

Yes, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism are officially on the Agent Orange Presumptive List. 

 

There’s been evidence linking these conditions to Agent Orange for years, but various political issues have kept the VA from adding them to the official list. So Congress took matters into their own hands and added them directly to the list without going through the VA. The conditions were included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 which was made law on January 1, 2021. 

 

So if the conditions are legally on the Presumptive List, why aren’t they appearing anywhere official? 

 

Great question! There isn’t a clear answer for this, but here is what we think based on previous changes to the Presumptive List. 

 

As mentioned before, usually changes to the Presumptive List come directly from the VA, so the VA has time to get a game plan in place before making the changes official. Since the change came directly from Congress, however, the VA did not have the same ability to get their policies and procedures ready to go to handle the new claims for these conditions.

 

Shortly after the law was passed in January, VA officials said it could take them up to 2 years to get their system set up that would give qualifying veterans access to these new benefits. 

 

We’re assuming that although the three conditions are officially on the Presumptive List now, they have not been added to official sources yet simply because the VA’s system is not yet ready to implement the new law. 

 

Will it really take 2 years before veterans can get their benefits for these conditions?

 

It could. However, we don’t think it will. 

 

The VA has been under significant pressure to get their system setup ASAP so veterans can start getting their benefits, and it sounds like they are doing just that. 

 

The press release from last week shows that they are starting to get their system in place (“begin implementing provisions”) to process these claims. It, unfortunately, did not state that they had the system in place and were ready to go, just that it was beginning. It also did not give any hint of a timeline on when things would be set.

 

So, could it still take until January 2023? Yes, but we are optimistic that it won’t take that long.

 

What if I submitted a claim for these conditions previously and was denied? 

 

Good news! The VA will be automatically reviewing all previously denied claims for these three conditions. As long as your claim has enough evidence to show that you qualify for the Agent Orange Presumptive List, the VA will grant you benefits without having to reapply. 

 

We do not have a timeline on when this review will begin, but the VA has said that they will notify any eligible veterans (and survivors) by mail. 

 

So... can I submit a new claim for these conditions now or not?

 

There is no clear answer for this one, but here is what we suggest. 

 

Yes, go ahead and submit a claim if you have not claimed these conditions before but do meet the requirements for the Presumptive List. 

 

While the VA does not have their policies ready to go yet for these claims, the law is in place allowing these conditions as of January. So even if the VA isn’t able to grant your claim right now, they will eventually have to evaluate it under the new law. 

 

Since the effective date of your benefits is determined by when you submit your claim, if you submit now, you’ll ultimately get an earlier effective date than if you wait to submit until they say they are ready to go. The claim might be in limbo for a bit, but ultimately, you’ll get your benefits at an earlier effective date. 

 

We believe the VA hasn’t publicly opened for submission yet simply because they don’t want to be inundated with claims they aren’t prepared to handle, but they legally cannot deny claims for these conditions any longer.

Monday, May 17, 2021

VA to Automatically Re-review Denied Blue Water Agent Orange Claims


The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 granted presumptive service-connection for Agent Orange exposure to vets who served within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam during the Vietnam Era. To receive these benefits, Blue Water vets had to submit a new claim after January 1, 2020, even if they had previously submitted claims that had been denied.
  

In November 2020, however, the VA received a court order to reopen over 60,000 Agent Orange claims that had been denied due to veterans not having boots on the ground or not serving in the inland waterways in order to ensure that all Blue Water vets received the proper benefits that had previously been denied.  

 

These veterans now do not have to apply to have the VA review their denied claims. The VA will automatically review all eligible claims and notify the veteran or their survivors of the revised decision. The VA, however, has given no timeline for the completion of the review, so there is no way to know how long this review will take or how quickly eligible veterans will start to receive their benefits. 

 

During the review, the VA will determine which of the 60,000+ claims do qualify under the Blue Water requirements. For all claims that qualify, the VA will pay retroactive benefits to the date of the denied claim. If the veteran is deceased, these benefits will be paid to their survivor or their estate.

If your case meets the requirements for the review, you will be notified by the VA, but no action is needed on your part at present.

Friday, April 30, 2021

eBenefits to Shut Down March 2022


The VA announced today that eBenefits will no longer be accessible starting March 31, 2022. 

We’ve known for a time that the VA was making plans to move all their benefits (not just disability) to VA.gov instead of having them on separate sites, like eBenefits, in order to give veterans the ability to access everything in one place. 

 

The VA has been slowly working on transferring disability services from eBenefits to VA.gov. Last year, the VA made all disability services for veterans available on VA.gov. Only Active Duty members applying for disability before discharge were required to use eBenefits.

 

That is now no longer the case. All disability services are fully available on VA.gov for all service members and veterans. With greater integration and a more user-friendly platform, the new VA.gov combines disability, pension, healthcare, and more on a single site. 

 

If you have a claim in process on eBenefits, don’t worry! You still have time to complete and submit it on that platform before the end of March in 2022. 

 

If you need to submit a new claim, reopen a claim, submit an appeal, apply for an increase, etc., you should now go straight to VA.gov. Once you login, you’ll find all of your data and information already transferred from eBenefits, and you’ll be able to manage all of your VA benefits in one place.