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VA Publishes Final Regulation to Aid Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

VA Health Care and Benefits Provided for Many Vietnam Veterans

WASHINGTON (August 30, 2010)- Veterans exposed to herbicides while
serving in Vietnam and other areas will have an easier path to access
quality health care and qualify for disability compensation under a
final regulation that will be published on August 31, 2010 in the
Federal Register by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The new
rule expands the list of health problems VA will presume to be related
to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures to add two new conditions
and expand one existing category of conditions.

"Last October, based on the requirements of the Agent Orange Act of
1991 and the Institute of Medicine's 2008 Update on Agent Orange, I
determined that the evidence provided was sufficient to award
presumptions of service connection for these three additional diseases,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "It was the right
decision, and the President and I are proud to finally provide this
group of Veterans the care and benefits they have long deserved."

The final regulation follows Shinseki's determination to expand the list
of conditions for which service connection for Vietnam Veterans is
presumed. VA is adding Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease
and expanding chronic lymphocytic leukemia to include all chronic B cell
leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and
who have a "presumed" illness don't have to prove an association between
their medical problems and their military service. By helping Veterans
overcome evidentiary requirements that might otherwise present
significant challenges, this "presumption" simplifies and speeds up the
application process and ensure that Veterans receive the benefits they
deserve.

The Secretary's decision to add these presumptives is based on the
latest evidence provided in a 2008 independent study by the Institute of
Medicine concerning health problems caused by herbicides like Agent
Orange.

Veterans who served in Vietnam anytime during the period beginning
January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been
exposed to herbicides.

More than 150,000 Veterans are expected to submit Agent Orange claims in
the next 12 to 18 months, many of whom are potentially eligible for
retroactive disability payments based on past claims. Additionally, VA
will review approximately 90,000 previously denied claims by Vietnam
Veterans for service connection for these conditions. All those awarded
service-connection who are not currently eligible for enrollment into
the VA healthcare system will become eligible.

This historic regulation is subject to provisions of the Congressional
Review Act that require a 60-day Congressional review period before
implementation. After the review period, VA can begin paying benefits
for new claims and may award benefits retroactively for earlier periods.
For new claims, VA may pay benefits retroactive to the effective date of
the regulation or to one year before the date VA receives the
application, whichever is later. For pending claims and claims that
were previously denied, VA may pay benefits retroactive to the date it
received the claim.

VA encourages Vietnam Veterans with these three diseases to submit their
applications for access to VA health care and compensation now so the
agency can begin development of their claims.

Individuals can go to a website at
http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/AO/claimherbicide.htm
to get an
understanding of how to file a claim for presumptive conditions related
to herbicide exposure, as well as what evidence is needed by VA to make
a decision about disability compensation or survivors benefits.

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services for Veterans
exposed to the chemical is available at
www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange
.

The regulation is available on the Office of the Federal Register
website at http://www.ofr.gov/ .