A court ruling this week brings us one step closer to expanded disability benefits for Vietnam veterans with Parkinson's.
On March 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a proposed rule that added Parkinson's disease to the list of health problems found to be related to Agent Orange. The proposed rule resulted from a decision by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in October 2009, which established Parkinson's, ischemic heart condition, and B-cell leukemias as service-connected disabilities for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
The March 25 proposed rule would grant a 100% disability rating for Parkinson's disease, as well as retroactive veteran and survivor payments for qualifying veterans. PAN and other Parkinson's advocates strongly supported the proposed rule.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 requires VA to issue final regulations within 90 days after proposed regulations are issued. Because the VA issued the proposed rule on March 25, final regulations should have been published by June 23. But the VA missed that deadline, saying that the rule was under review by the Office of Management and Budget. In July, a group of veterans' organizations took the VA to court - arguing that the VA was delaying benefits to veterans.
On August 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the veterans' organizations and instructed VA to issue the final rule "within 30 days." With the Court's decision, therefore, the VA must issue the final rule by September 1.
So When Will This Go Into Effect?
Even though we are likely to see a final rule published this month, it looks like it will be another couple of months after that before it actually goes into effect.
Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) passed an amendment invoking the 60-day review period Congress gets to look at a final rule. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on September 23 to review the rule and to discuss how the VA Secretary makes his decision to establish a disease as a service-connected disability. There certainly is no intention for Congress to actually block the final rule, but it looks like VA will have to wait 60 days after the final rule is published before they can start compensating veterans.
Apply for Benefits Now
Vietnam veterans with Parkinson's are strongly encouraged to submit their applications for compensation now - even before the rule is made final. Vietnam veterans and survivors who file a claim before VA publishes the final rule will be eligible for benefits retroactive to the date their claim is filed. For more information about applying for VA benefits and Agent Orange, visit the VA Web site.
VietNam Veterans now have expanded disability benefits
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