VA Secretary Seeks to Expand Medical Coverage Related to Agent Orange Exposure

Stars and Stripes reported that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin would like to expand Agent-Orange-related medical coverage to new categories of veterans with ailments, but cost, medical science, and politics are preventing it from happening.

On March 21, Shulkin met with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and told them he recommended to the Office of Management and Budget last year to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors and hypertension (or high blood pressure) to VA’s list of 14 illnesses that were presumably caused from the use and exposure to those who served during the Vietnam War. He said he met with OMB on March 19 and was asked for more data so the agency can provide an accurate cost to cover these diseases; he said he is “working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) published a report in 2016 that examined medical and scientific articles that examined links between the aforementioned ailments and herbicide exposure. The report found there was “limited or suggested evidence” that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and hypertension were linked to exposure to herbicides.

However, the report, which was released in 2016, sat in the VA’s office for two years. Since the report’s release, neither Shulkin nor his predecessor, Bob McDonald, acted on it. According to the Stars and Stripes article, McDonald allegedly said he would make a decision within three months after reviewing the report with one of his staff members, but left that responsibility to his successor. Shulkin waited until July 2017 to announce that he would make his decision by November 1, 2017, but the OMB held up Shulkin’s decision, citing cost.

Congressional inaction also played a role. In 2015, Congress let part of a law lapse that would have required the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to decide on the presumptive conditions 180 days after accepting the report’s findings.

If you or a loved one is a Veteran who has been sickened by herbicide or other chemical exposure during wartime and is seeking to apply for disability compensation for a service-connected disability, it is important to contact an experienced VA lawyer who may assist you or a loved one through the application process. Filing an application for Veteran’s benefits or appealing an application that has been denied, is often a complex process that requires the attention of a skilled Veterans Affairs attorney.

The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP concentrate their practice in Veterans Disability Law. With over 50 years of combined experience between its lawyers, our attorneys may assist you or a loved one in obtaining disability benefits. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office.

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