Friday, July 27, 2007

Filing Agent Orange claims

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Filing Agent Orange Claims
Sgt. Shaft | July 23, 2007
Filing Date Affects Agent Orange Disability Benefits

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have a very good friend who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He is suffering from neuropathy, vertigo and a number of other maladies. I feel very strongly that at least part of this is due to Agent Orange. He has talked to the Veterans Affairs Department and I have done some research that indicates that if he did not make a claim within (my best recollection) about 18 to 24 months after his time there, that the government claims it is not related to Agent Orange.

Is there some other or more recent research or position on the VA's part that has updated this position? If so, what is the best way for him to go about accessing the information and, hopefully, applying for disability benefits?

Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Rick J.

Dear Rick:

You brought up several issues.

First, there is a general presumptive period following active duty of one year in which most disabilities must become manifest. Then, there is an issue of effective date of entitlement if application for benefits is delayed. While there is no time limit for a veteran to file a claim for VA benefits, the effective date is related to the date of application. Thus, applications for benefits many years after service cannot normally be awarded for before the date of application.

As for your other questions, those in the know at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) tell me that there are "several conditions considered by VA as presumptive to Agent Orange exposure." The law also requires that some of these diseases be at least 10 percent disabling under VA's rating regulations within a deadline that began to run the day a veteran left Vietnam. If there is a deadline, it is listed in parentheses after the name of the disease. If you would like any additional information regarding the specific medical conditions listed below, please see the Agent Orange Briefing Fact Sheets Web page at The diseases include:

* Chloracne or other acneiform disease consistent with chloracne (must occur within one year of exposure to Agent Orange).

* Hodgkin's disease.

* Multiple myeloma.

* Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

* Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy. (For purposes of this section, the term acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy means temporary peripheral neuropathy that appears within weeks or months of exposure to an herbicide agent and resolves within two years of the date of onset.)

* Porphyria cutanea tarda (must occur within one year of exposure to Agent Orange).

* Prostate cancer.

* Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea).

* Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma or mesothelioma).

I hope this is helpful to your Marine buddy.

Shaft notes

The VA has announced funding for two District-area programs.

* Homeless veterans in Washington, D.C., will get more assistance, thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) selection of National Coalition for Homeless Veterans to receive $800,000 to provide technical assistance for homeless veterans this year.

"Only through a dedicated partnership with community- and faith-based organizations can we hope to reduce homelessness among veterans," said Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, who has since resigned his post. "These partnerships provide safe, comfortable housing in caring communities for veterans who need a helping hand."

The grant was part of a broader announcement by Mr. Nicholson on $24 million in grants for homeless programs in 37 states. Ninety-two community-based groups will receive the VA funding.

The grants are part of VA"s continuing efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans. VA has the largest integrated network of homeless-assistance programs in the country. In many cities and rural areas, VA social workers and other clinicians working with community partners conduct extensive outreach programs, clinical assessments, medical treatments, alcohol and drug abuse counseling and employment assistance.

More information about VA"s homeless programs is available on the Internet at

* In addition to the homeless initiative, VA is continuing its mission of providing a final resting place for Maryland veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the award of a $1.9 million grant to expand the Crownsville Veterans Cemetery in Anne Arundel County.

"With the expansion of this state veterans cemetery, VA ensures that memorial benefits for Maryland veterans will be available for many more years," Mr. Nicholson said.

The grant will pay for construction of 2,434 full-casket burial sites, 1,087 in-ground cremation burial sites, 1,056 columbarium niches, utilities, landscaping and irrigation. Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA Web site at or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800/827-1000. Information about Maryland"s veterans cemeteries can be obtained from the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs at or by calling 410/923-6981.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail

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Copyright 2007 Sgt. Shaft. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of

About Sgt. Shaft

Sgt. Shaft was hatched in April of 1982 at the home of the veterans' newspaper, Stars & Stripes, in Washington, D.C. This moniker combines the name of its creator, John Fales, Marine MOS in Vietnam and "Scout Sgt.," with the military expression when wronged, "Shafted."

Sgt. Shaft's wry sense of humor, empathy for the underdog, and strong love of country and fellow veterans closely mirror the nature of its creator.

In addition to writing the column, John Fales is President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. His decorations include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Sgt. Shaft has no twin.
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