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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.


  1. Made a claim in Feb with DAV for hyperthyroidism and agent orange. VA accepted my claim and sent me a letter that says they were investigating my claim. In August in went to a VA audiologist for my hearing test. Went back to the audiologist for my new hearing aids. The audiologist said I should l think about filing a new claim for review of my hearing claim. Went DAV and had they file a new claim. I already have a 50 percent hearing disability. Again i received a letter from VA accepting my new claim with new case number and all that. A couple of weeks later I get a new letter saying my my claim of hearing has been closed. They I found out that they didn’t settle any thing but they tied my hearing claim and put it as part of the hyperthyroidism claim. I take it that I won’t hear anything until my agent orange suit is decided.

    1. Hi David - Yes, having multiple claims open at the same time makes things messy, so the VA tries to combine them if they receive new claims while others are still open. They will now review both claims at the same time and respond to both conditions together.