Many Veterans and surviving spouses are entitled to benefits for diseases linked to their exposure to Agent Orange. These include disability compensation, health care, home loans and other support. VA regularly adds conditions to its list of presumptive Agent Orange diseases. To qualify for these and additional benefits, it is essential to have thorough documentation.
For a decade after the military sprayed Agent Orange on 20 million acres of Vietnam jungle, veterans developed serious diseases related to their exposure to the toxic herbicide. It can take years for these conditions to appear, but once they do, the VA must compensate them with service-connected benefits. Widows and other surviving family members could be entitled to VA benefits, but they must prove they were exposed to Agent Orange during military service to qualify. Many of the diseases linked to Agent Orange are presumptive, but surviving spouses and children must prove their connection through medical records, tests, and other evidence. They must also submit the correct application forms and various supporting documents. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable assistance to the widow of a deceased veteran exposed to Agent Orange by navigating the complex VA benefits claim process and ensuring that all relevant documents and evidence are meticulously prepared and submitted. They can also offer expert guidance, improving the chances of a successful claim and helping the widow secure the benefits and support she deserves.
For decades, the government denied that exposure to Agent Orange caused certain diseases. But, eventually, Congress and the VA decided to give benefits for diseases presumed to be related to the herbicide.
For example, veterans who served aboard ships that sailed off the coast of Vietnam or in areas where the United States sprayed Agent Orange or other herbicides are presumed to have been exposed to that chemical. Other presumptive diseases include ischemic heart disease, chloracne (a skin condition that looks like common acne and has similar symptoms to poison ivy), early-onset peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and AL amyloidosis. Survivors of these conditions can receive monthly compensation payments and educational assistance for themselves and their children. Education and training benefits can cover expenses such as tuition, housing and supplies for an approved program. Spouses and surviving parents of eligible veterans can also qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC. Same-sex spouses can be suitable for these benefits as heterosexual married military couples.
Service-Connected Disability Benefits
For the survivors of veterans who died from service-related disabilities or who developed serious medical conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, there is a form of compensation called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This monthly benefit is paid out to eligible spouses and children based on the income they would have received at their spouse’s or child’s occupation had they not died from the disability or death that resulted from military service or Agent Orange exposure. The VA will only award this compensation if the disability or death was considered service-connected. If the disease were on the presumptive list — including ischemic heart disease, diabetes and some cancers — then the VA would presume that the veteran’s condition is connected to their service in Vietnam.
Service-Connected Death Benefits
Suppose a service member dies on active duty or within one year after discharge or release from military service. In that case, the surviving spouse, child or parents may receive a tax-free monetary benefit. This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). VA will only award DIC if the veteran was rated 100 percent service-connected at the time of death or was rated permanently disabled for ten years before their end. Exceptions can arise, though, when presumptive conditions are involved. For example, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina might have been exposed to chemicals like benzene and trichloroethylene. If those chemicals cause a health condition that leads to the veteran’s death, a surviving spouse or children might qualify for DIC benefits. These claims can get complicated, and they require the expertise of a disability lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can identify potential eligibility and help families pursue the highest disability rating possible