Issues Facing Vietnam Veterans

March 29th marks National Vietnam War Veteran’s Day—a day dedicated to thanking our nation’s veterans for their sacrifice and service from 1961 to 1975. An estimated 2.7 million American military personnel served on active duty in the Vietnam War, many of whom are still struggling to receive their benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

VA System Delays in Granting Veterans’ Claims

When filing a claim with the VA, veterans are seeing substantial delays in the application process. To shorten these delays, it is important to understand the process of filing a VA Disability Compensation Benefits Claim.

Generally, the claims process includes the following steps:

  1. File an “Intent to File a Claim” with VA Form 21-0966.
    This form is not the claim itself, but rather a signal to the VA that the veteran will be filing a claim within the next year.
  2. Gather all relevant paperwork and evidence.
    Our legal team can identify what evidence and information is needed in each case, and will work with each veteran to obtain it. This assistance doesn’t necessarily shorten VA delays, however it lowers the probability of the VA denying the claim. With fewer appeals, it is easier for a veteran’s claim to be granted sooner.
  3. Apply for VA Disability Compensation with VA Form 21-526EZ.
    Once all relevant materials are compiled, veterans can file an “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits”. This form must be submitted within one year of the “Intent to File a Claim”.
  4. Appeal the VA’s decision, if necessary.
    Individuals may find that their claim was denied for a variety of reasons, including improper documentation or a lack of evidence. We are committed to helping veterans appeal this decision, when needed, in order to help successfully win their claim.

Learn more about the process of filing a VA Disability Compensation Benefits Claim.

Proving Exposure to Agent Orange and Harmful Herbicides

A common reason for Vietnam War veterans to file a claim is exposure to Agent Orange and other harmful herbicides. In filing an Agent Orange-related claim, veterans must substantiate their exposure to the harmful chemical, as well as prove that an existing medical condition is related to that exposure.

The Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 expands the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides to veterans who served within 12 nautical miles seaward of the demarcation line of Vietnam. If a Blue Water Vietnam veteran was previously denied a claim, the VA will not automatically re-adjudicate the claim. Instead, the veteran must reapply, and we can help guide veterans through this process.

Proving exposure to harmful herbicides is especially difficult for veterans who served in areas outside of Vietnam. However, veterans who served outside of specified time periods or locations may still be eligible for service connection. This includes those who served on or near some military bases in Thailand, as well as testing/storage facilities outside of Vietnam.

Veterans will need to prove that they were personally exposed to herbicides, as just being at the location may not be enough. We work with each veteran to obtain statements concerning the circumstances surrounding the exposure, as well as conduct research to see if there are any other ways to demonstrate exposure.

Establishing a Connection Between Herbicide Exposure and Medical Conditions

The VA has a presumptive list of medical conditions that are presumed to have developed from herbicide exposure. These conditions include:

  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne
  • Type 2 diabetes (also known as Type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Ischemic heart disease (including, but not limited to, acute, subacute, and old myocardial infarction; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease (including coronary spasm) and coronary bypass surgery; and stable, unstable and Prinzmetal’s angina)
  • All chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Early-onset peripheral neuropathy
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)

Succeeding on a claim can be difficult when a veteran’s condition is not included on the above list. To combat this issue, we assist our clients with finding a doctor who can provide an opinion regarding the relationship between the herbicide exposure and their current condition.

Some veterans may have difficulty obtaining medical records which document treatment from their time in service. In this event, we work with the veteran to obtain statements to support that this treatment occurred. This support includes statements regarding the approximate dates of treatment, the nature of the treatment, and perhaps statements from family members and friends who recall the veteran receiving such treatment.

Receiving Benefits for Psychiatric Conditions

In the 1990 National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), it was estimated that approximately 30% of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD. PTSD was first recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, meaning that it was not formally recognized when many Vietnam veterans returned home.

PTSD is not the only mental illness facing Vietnam veterans, as anxiety and depression are also prevalent issues. Anxiety and depression can be linked to a preexisting case of PTSD, or occur as a result of the mental and emotional effects of the war.

If a veteran has been denied a claim for a psychiatric condition, we can help.

Enlist Help to Receive Veterans Benefits

Our attorneys are dedicated to representing veterans and their families in obtaining VA benefits. We work diligently to get our clients’ claims approved by:

  • Explaining how the VA system works and what evidence is needed to win each veteran’s case.
  • Working with each veteran to get the evidence necessary to substantiate a claim.
  • Staying in touch with each veteran, letting them know where their case stands, and answering questions.
  • Watching the VA closely, and challenging it if it does something to delay a case without good cause.

Goodman Allen Donnelly provides free virtual legal clinics to address questions about the claims process. For a free, non-binding case evaluation, call 877-838-1010.

This blog is made available by Goodman Allen Donnelly for general information, and does not constitute legal advice. By reading this blog, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.