New research conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has concluded that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior research found no conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.
If VA officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems. Veterans who struggle with high blood pressure issues are eligible for health care at VA facilities. But the illness is eligible for disability benefits in only select cases.
Adding an illness to VA’s presumptive list means that veterans applying for disability benefits need not prove that their sickness is directly connected to their time in service. Instead, they only need show that they served in areas where the defoliant was used and that they now suffer from the diseases. That’s a significant difference, since proving direct exposure and clear health links can be nearly impossible for ailing veterans searching for decades-old paper records. (Source: Military.com – 19 Nov. 2018)
VA disability claims assistance
Veterans with a current health problem that they believe started on or as a result of their active duty service should consider filing a claim with the VA. Disabilities need not be combat or even work related; they can be the result of playing sports, falling out of your rack, participating in unit PT or a car accident while on leave.
For those veterans already receiving VA disability benefits for service-connected conditions, be aware that disabilities seldom improve over time; they normally worsen. If a veteran who is already service connected for a disability feels that it has worsened, they are encouraged to contact an accredited Veterans Services Officer (VSO) to inquire about the possibility of increased benefits. The VSO will fully explain the claims application process and help complete all the necessary paperwork for submission to VA.
To meet with a VSO to discuss these and other benefits, call the Kauai Office of Veterans’ Services at (808) 369-3535 to schedule an appointment.
VA dental insurance program
Veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system and beneficiaries of the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA) can enroll in the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP).
VADIP offers eligible individuals the opportunity to purchase discounted dental insurance coverage, including diagnostic services, preventive services, endodontic and other restorative services, surgical services and emergency services.
Individuals who enroll in one of the dental insurance plans are responsible to pay the entire premium in addition to the full cost of any copayments. Enrollment is voluntary and does not affect eligibility for VA outpatient dental services and treatment. For more information visit www.va.gov/HEALTHBENEFITS/vadip/ or call 877-222-8387.
Tony Elliott is in the Kauai Office of Veterans’ Services, and can be reached at 241-3348.