The VA will soon add three conditions to the list of disabilities presumptively caused by Agent Orange Exposure. Prior to the passage of the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for FY2021 the following conditions were considered presumptively linked to Agent Orange Exposure during the Vietnam War:
Conditions Presumptively Linked to Agent Orange Exposure
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early- Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas
The Thornberry NDAA for FY2021 will add three more conditions:
- Bladder Cancer
Vietnam Veterans were often exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange if they served in the Republic of Vietnam, on certain ships offshore, or at certain airbases in Thailand. When a Veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange develops one of these presumptive conditions later in life, there is no additional need to prove a nexus for service connection, because the disease was presumptively caused by the exposure.
These new presumptive conditions also fall under the “Nehmer Rules,” which can have an impact on the effective date of a claim. Generally speaking, the effective date of the claim will be day the claim is received by the VA. This effective date is important because it determines when the benefits start accruing. If a claim is denied, and the Veteran files a timely appeal, the Veteran may ultimately collect significant back-pay dating back to the effective date once the claim is approved. Given how long the appeals process can be, the back-pay can be significant.
The Nehmer Rule, which comes from the consent decree in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requires the VA to identify claims for conditions presumptively caused by Agent Orange that were denied prior to being added to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions. Simply put, if a condition for Bladder Cancer, Parkinsonism, or Hypothyroidism was previously denied for a Vietnam Veteran, the VA may reopen the case and grant the condition and the backpay.