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Retroactive Agent Orange benefits paid out to Vietnam veterans

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that more than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits has already been paid to approximately 89,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors who filed claims related to one of three new Agent Orange presumptive conditions.

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On Aug. 31, 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amended its regulations to add ischemic heart disease, hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson's disease to the list of diseases presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.

"As the president said to the American Legion yesterday, VA is committed to ensuring veterans and their families receive the care and benefits they have earned," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "I encourage all potentially eligible veterans to apply as soon as possible to preserve the most favorable effective date for payments."

For new claims, VA may authorize up to one year of retroactive benefits if a veteran can show that he or she has experienced one of those conditions since the date of the regulatory change.

VA has reviewed, and continues to review, thousands of previously filed claims that may qualify for retroactive benefits under a long-standing court order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Nehmer vs. U.S. Veterans Administration.

"VA encourages survivors of veterans whose death may be due to one of the three diseases to file a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation," added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.

Shinseki's decision to add these conditions to the list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions was based on a study by the Institute of Medicine, which indicated a positive association between exposure to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of one or more of the three conditions.

Potentially eligible veterans include those who were exposed based on duty or visitation in Vietnam or on its inland waterways between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975; exposed along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971; or exposed due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases within and outside of the United States.

The Agent Orange Claims Processing System website located at https://www.fasttrack.va.gov/AOFastTrack/ may be used to submit claims related to the three new presumptive conditions. The website makes it easy to electronically file a claim and allows veterans and their physicians to upload evidence supporting the claim. It also permits online viewing of claim status.

Beyond the three new presumptive disabilities, veterans may file online at VA's My-eBenefits web site at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal.

They can check the status of their claim with a premium account (confirming their identity), and use a growing number of online services. Service members may enroll in My-eBenefits by using their Common Access Card at anytime during their military service, or before they leave during their Transition Assistance Program briefings.

Veterans may also enroll through their myPay or MyHealtheVet accounts by visiting their local VA regional office or Veteran Service Organization, or by calling (800) 827-1000.

Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at david.anderson@co.wadena.mn.us. As always, have a great week.

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