TRR Veterans Agent Orange Exposure and New Presumptive’s
Janet: So, Patrick, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020, what conditions have they added to the presumptive list?
Patrick: Great question. So, they’ve recently added three new conditions to the presumptive list of conditions that are presumptively caused by exposure to Agent Orange. And they are bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism, and Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s-like symptoms have been added.
Janet: Okay. So, I mean, I’m sure a lot of veterans are wondering and veterans’ family members are probably wondering just what is a presumptive condition. I mean, we throw it around because we understand it, but a lot of other people don’t understand it. A presumptive condition removes one of the burdens, right? Because what do we need to show, well, what needs to be shown to prove up a case [inaudible 00:00:52]?
Patrick: The three elements of service connection are an in-service event, a current diagnosis, and a medical nexus. The medical nexus is the hardest thing to prove, and that’s a connection between the in-service event and the current diagnosis. So, what a presumptive does, it removes that barrier completely. It takes away the burden from the veteran to prove the medical nexus. So, if they were in country between the certain times that have been codified in the law and they now have a current diagnosis of one of the presumed conditions, then they are service-connected, just that simple, rather than having to prove the connection, the medical connection between the in-service event and the current diagnosis.
Janet: Okay. And I mean, look, we get a lot of people calling all the time, particularly about Agent Orange, that there was a rather extensive list before, but now we have newly added conditions. And I imagine that some of those conditions will feed out into even those veterans that were exposed to the burn pits. And you know, really what they’re talking about is the dioxins, right, which are probably some of the most lethal and dangerous chemicals known. And there is a similarity between what the veterans of Vietnam were exposed to and the exposure that the Gulf veterans have had. A lot of the conditions are very similar. I think that any veteran who’s been exposed to the burn pits or Agent Orange, if they haven’t filed a claim or thinking about it, stop thinking about it, get that claim in.
Patrick: Yeah. Get the ball rolling.
Janet: Get the ball rolling. Exactly.
Patrick: Yeah. Because the commonalities between the dangerous compounds, the dioxins that were found in the Agent Orange are found in the combustion of the materials being burned in the burn pits. You know, so it’s tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, which is actually one of the most dangerous chemicals humans have ever encountered. And it’s released in the burning, combustion of plastics and it was also in Agent Orange. And now, that seems to be the most dangerous chemical that is now causing all of the presumptive Agent Orange conditions. Well, it also exists in the burn pits. So, I think we’re going to be seeing unfortunately, a lot of post-9/11 and even Gulf War veterans coming down with, and they already have been actually coming down with these same conditions, but the burdens on the veteran to prove it at this point, that may change in the future.
Janet: Well, we’re hoping for that change. That’s for certain. So, really, I mean, you and I discussed it before, veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange, they were exposed to it by spraying. The veterans over in the Gulf were exposed to it by inhaling the particulate matter. So, the way of exposure was different, but they were still exposed to the same thing, and I think that’s what people need to understand.
Patrick: Yes. And I guess like the most important thing that maybe had come from this new list of presumptives for the Agent Orange exposure is the fact that family members can now file for claims if their loved one, the service member, passed away from one of these three conditions, they’re now entitled to file for what’s called DIC benefits, which are benefits paid to the family member if a veteran did in fact die of a service-connected disability. Now, before this presumption, they might not have been able to prove the medical nexus to get service connection for these conditions. Now that burden of proof is gone, so the family member or living spouse or children can now file for DIC benefits and get them with the same presumption being used for their benefit.
Janet: As it would be for the veteran, which is kinda nice. I mean, a lot of people gave up filing for benefits if they got denied the first time or were told, “Listen, you don’t have a claim.” You know, if you think you had a claim or you may have a claim, whether it be for you yourself, the veteran, or if a family member of a veteran thinks they have a claim, the best thing to do is go in and seek advice. Have somebody look at it and see if there is a claim.