More than 34,000 Vietnam-era veterans diagnosed with bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms are now eligible for VA disability compensation and healthcare services following the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The three medical conditions have now been added to VA’s Presumptive List for Agent Orange, following a years-long effort by advocates and lawmakers to revise the list and get affected veterans the compensation they need.
The addition of these conditions follows a 2016 opinion by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) that ties them to exposure to chemical defoliants like Agent Orange. VA originally considered adding these conditions in 2017, but the Office of Management and Budget nixed it, demanding further research to prove a connection. Typically presumptive conditions are determined by VA decisions based on extensive medical research, which makes this event an unlikely, though welcome, one.
Notably, hypertension was excluded from the NDAA, and so has not been added as a presumptive condition. A 2018 study by NASEM linked it to Agent Orange exposure, but due to the prevalence of hypertension in the elderly and a hefty increase in estimated costs for coverage, the condition was left out.
What is the Presumptive List for Agent Orange?
The Presumptive List was made for the benefit of an abundance of Vietnam-era veterans who experienced similar ill-effects to their health after exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used extensively in Vietnam. Over the years, the Presumptive List has been updated to include new conditions following research that established links between those conditions and Agent Orange exposure. New laws have also been passed in the interim to expand eligibility for Vietnam-era veterans who may be suffering from presumptive conditions, too.
The addition of the three conditions is just the latest revision made to the list.
What Conditions Have Been Added?
Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms have been added to the Presumptive List for Agent Orange. Here is a brief overview of each condition.
Bladder cancer: symptoms of this cancer include blood in the urine, frequent urination, painful urination, and back pain. It is often diagnosed in its early stages and can be treated effectively, but it can recur even after treatment.
Hypothyroidism: characterized by the thyroid gland failing to produce enough hormones, often referred to as an underactive thyroid. The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are weight gain and fatigue, but can also include a slowed heart rate, elevated blood cholesterol, and muscle weakness and stiffness.
Parkinsonism, or Parkinson’s-like conditions: Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system mostly characterized by tremors, and stiffness, or slowness of your muscles. No cure exists, though medication and/or surgery may be used to manage it. Veterans do not need a formal diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease to get the presumption of service connection.
Assistance with Your Claim
If you are one of those veterans now eligible for these presumptive conditions and need assistance filing or appealing your claim, call VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS to get the best representation you can find to make the strongest claim for your compensation.