Advice From Your Advocates

The Unseen Battle: Understanding VA Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure

August 04, 2023 Attorney Bob Mannor Season 1 Episode 25
Advice From Your Advocates
The Unseen Battle: Understanding VA Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure
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What if you could unmask the complexities of VA compensation benefits tied to Agent Orange-related illnesses? Attorney Bob Mannor, a leader on aging veterans' affairs, illuminates the recent changes in VA compensation benefits, particularly focusing on the concept of presumptive illnesses. These diseases, as he explains, are automatically assumed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure in certain regions, freeing veterans from the burden of proof. With a deep dive into various geographical areas including Vietnam and the Korean DMZ, Bob provides a comprehensive understanding of where exposure is presumed and also outlines the spectrum of illnesses tied to Agent Orange exposure.

Don't let the possibilities of benefits connected to Agent Orange exposure pass you by if you're a Vietnam era veteran.

In the second half of the podcast, Bob underscores the various forms of compensation available and how attorneys can be pivotal in beefing up the compensation percentage and dollar amount for veterans. Even more captivating is how a higher disability percentage can pave the way for veterans to qualify for health services and long-term care services. It's about time we shift our focus toward veterans' benefits and ensure that our veterans from the Vietnam era aren't left in the lurch. So join us on this enlightening journey, learn, understand, and make a difference.

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ABOUT US:
Mannor Law Group helps clients in all matters of estate planning and elder law including special needs planning, veterans’ benefits, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and more. We offer guidance through all stages of life.

We also help families dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses that cause memory loss. We take a comprehensive, holistic approach, called Life Care Planning. LEARN MORE...

Savannah Meksto:

You're listening to Advice from your Advocates, a show where we provide elder law advice to professionals who work with the elderly and their families. Hi there, I'm Savannah Meksto, with Manor Law Group, welcoming you with esteemed estate planning and elder law attorney, Bob Mannor. This could be life-changing if you or someone you know is a Vietnam veteran who was potentially exposed to Agent Orange. The Veterans Administration recently made big changes to their compensation eligibility for eligibility Orange-connected Agent illnesses. Learn what these changes mean for you or your veteran on this webinar with attorney Bob Mannor.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

Hi folks, this is a really interesting topic here and we're going to get right into it. Let's talk about it from the big picture here. So there's specifically, there's other ways, places that the presumptive disability or the presumptive illnesses come about, but it's mostly tied to Agent Orange. And you think about it. For those that were alive at the time, after Vietnam and even during the end of Vietnam, there was a lot of understanding or belief or thoughts that exposure to Agent Orange was dangerous and but it was denied by the federal government, by the VA, by the Army and military for a few years. And then they kind of went the other direction Once they started to acknowledge that, yes, exposure to Agent Orange was dangerous. Then they came up with a list of diseases that it was tied to. And what's different about this and why we specify these particular diseases in Agent Orange is they made it a presumptive illness. They made it a presumptive disability. What does that mean and why is that good for veterans? Well, for most veterans, if you're a World War II veteran or anything like that, you need to tie whatever it is that is your illness or the issue, we need to tie that to your time in service. So for a while there was folks that got malaria and they were exposed because they were in parts of the world that mosquitoes carried malaria and they were exposed during their time in service and so they were entitled to benefits. But we still had to go back and prove it. Another common one is PTSD. Well, you can only imagine some of the PTSD that people that served during some of the major conflicts and imagine D-Day and World War II and the after effects of that. So it still had to prove a connection With presumptive illness.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

You do not have to prove that you were exposed to Agent Orange. The presumption is that if you were in Vietnam and sometimes around Vietnam and in some places in Korea, they are going to presume that you were exposed. So with other things you have to prove that you were exposed, like asbestos. That's a good example. Asbestos, you got to prove you're exposed and you got to prove that the asbestos was what caused the illness. But with Agent Orange and the things tied to Agent Orange, they presume two things. They presume you were exposed if you were in the area and they presume that because you have that illness, it's tied to the Agent Orange. So you no longer as with other things and other exposures. You no longer have to prove the exposure and you no longer have to do the causal connection. You just have to show you were there and you have this illness and then it's a presumptive illness. That's the big picture here.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

So let's dive down into this just a little bit. So what we're going to discuss is presumptive illnesses. Why Vietnam and the Korea DMZ? Whom does it affect? The list of illnesses? How do we begin the claims process and what will you need? What documents do you need to gather? So what is a presumptive illness? That's kind of what we've already talked about that the VA presumes that certain disabilities, certain illnesses were caused by their military service and the veteran can should be awarded compensation.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

A lot of times we reference this as disability or things like that, but it's really compensation. That's how the VA would classify it. So the three primary benefit areas of through the VA, I say there's four. There is compensation, meaning something service-connected and that you're being compensated for it. There's pension, which is often referred to as aid and attendance. There is health services, which is a whole different thing and a whole different category for qualifying for that. And then there's all the miscellaneous stuff like home mortgages and the cemetery and those types of things. So a presumptive service connection is specifically and most commonly related to age and orange. So what is age and orange? Well, you probably understand that the idea was when we are serving in jungle areas, it was very difficult to be able to engage in combat because of a jungle area. So the age and orange was an effort to increase our fighting position, our ability to conduct the war, and so these are the areas that generally there's.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

We consider exposure. So if you were in Vietnam, laos or Cambodia during those dates 62 to 75, and then during the Korean demilitarized zone, from 68 to 71. So this is actually something I didn't realize until a few years ago, that there was actually an area of Korea that had the age and orange exposure also, of course, I knew about Vietnam, but we had our other care coordinator, aina, who had done a presentation on this, and she let us know that it also includes the portion of Korea if you served in that area from 68 to 71. So why do we care? Oh, also not only if you served in that area, but if you were considered a brown water or blue water Navy veteran. So brown waters, fairly obvious, that's where you know you were in the rivers and streams and things like that. Obviously you were exposed, but recently, in the last couple years here they've also included blue water. This is very important. So people that were not they were. They were on the ships in the Gulf or in the area. They weren't necessarily boots on the ground in Vietnam, but they were enough exposure in the blue water area to get it. I've had several people come into my office that didn't know that they were entitled to these benefits because in fact, they had inquired but they were told that they didn't qualify because they were blue water Navy veterans, meaning they were they never set foot on the ground in Vietnam and they've changed that and there's a history behind Hau and why they changed it, but they did change it a couple years ago. So we've been able to help a couple of folks that have been in the office recently that had previously been told that they did not qualify for these benefits. But they they do now and that's one of the things that we want to keep in mind that this keeps changing.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

The list of conditions keeps growing. In fact, we're gonna talk about how they just added three very significant conditions that were not on there before. So we're gonna go through some of these, the presumptive conditions. There's a number of cancers blood cancer, prostate, lung, lyrax, trachea, bronchia, soft tissue, ischemic heart disease, parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, neuropathy, and then this is a bit of a longer list. The list keeps changing, they keep adding to the list and If you have cancer, you should probably look into it. You should probably. We have folks that can help you decide whether it's worth to file a claim. And I had someone recently that didn't appear, that was on the list, but we went to, we referred them to one of the attorneys that pursues these claims and they said, absolutely, we're going to pursue this. And there was a form of cancer. It's not on the list, but they said well, we think it's close enough, tie that they were going to pursue it and they think that they have a good chance of qualifying for those benefits. So what about the three new ones? So they just came out in the last few months and they said, okay, we're going to add three more presumptive conditions to the list bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism. So Parkinson's disease was already on there, but I've had a number of clients that came in with the diagnosis of Parkinsonism and not Parkinson's disease. Well, now, that's included in the Agent Orange list.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

Also, how do you file? Well, honestly, the best place to file is either through your county veteran service or we've had any veteran service organization. We often recommend people go through their county veteran service If you feel like you are. It's not an automatic that you're going to get approved. We have attorneys that we can refer you to that will help you pursue the case. They particularly get involved if you've been denied. So most of the time we don't get the attorney involved until you've been denied and then we file the appeal and we try to get approved after a denial. So we usually start with either disabled American veterans or the county service a veteran's service officer and then, if we get denied or if we don't get enough the percentage is not high enough then we go to have an attorney and assist with the appeal process.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

What types of things would you want to have gathered when you're starting this process? Well, you're going to need your discharge, so we're going to want to get access to that. If you're married, your marriage license is going to have to have information about previous marriages. If you have any other dependents for a certificate of Social Security, school information. If you have underage dependents, you might need your bank information. If we're going to, once we get the benefits, if it's going to be direct deposited, you might need your direct deposit information. You're going to need any additional military records that would pertain to your service to show that you were serving during that time period or whatever else, and obviously, your treatment information so you can go to your private doctor for the diagnosis. They can have you seen by a veteran's VA doctor, but that doesn't have to be the starting place. You can go to your personal doctor for the diagnosis. I went to the VA website and I got this list. I thought this was a good list and this doesn't include the last three that we just talked about. That they added, but they divided between cancers and non-cancers. So the cancers we have the list here, and then we have a list to a couple of pages of non-cancers, including diabetes, type 2, including Parkinson's disease, x-cemic Heart disease, neuropathy. So there's a number of things that are not cancer related also.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

So the idea why is it so important? Why is it so important? Well, several things. Number one is it's dollars in your pocket. It's compensation they're paying you as compensation for exposing you to Agent Orange. So it could be anything from $300 up to $3,000 or $4,000 a month, depending on your percentage, depending on the specific diseases, depending on how it's affected you. But there's more than that. Money's great. We always want to go after that and if we can increase the percentage which is often what the lawyers are going to do so you go in, you get approved, but you only get approved for 20% or 30%. We really think you should be up at 70% or 80% or hopefully 100%. So then the lawyer can appeal that and try to get it increased to a higher percentage and a higher dollar amount. But also, with the higher percentages, you get a number of other things, including health services. So why is that valuable? Well, because, especially later in life, if you need long-term care services like a nursing home or like some assisted livings or daycare or even home care through health services, if you qualify under compensation and you have a high enough percentage under compensation, the VA will pay for that for you. If you're 70% or above and need to go to a nursing home, the VA has private nursing homes that they will pay for, not just the VA nursing homes, but they have a contract with private nursing homes that they will pay for if you're 70% or more above on compensation disability, or if the reason why you're in the nursing home is related to the illness that's tied to the age of orange Parkinson's, for example, cancer, one of the kinds, parkinsonism as the new one. So the idea is, even if you're not above the 70%, if the reason you're in the nursing home is tied to the age of orange diagnosis or the age of orange presumptive illness, then the VA will pay and that nursing homes cost $10,000 or more a month and so, in addition to getting the money that you would get for the compensation, they will also pay for the nursing home. Now is that all automatic? Can you just call up and say, hey, great, I got this disease? No, there's a process we got to go through, we've got to get approved, and it's always dealing with the government bureaucracy, but it's worth it, because sometimes this is very helpful in getting.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

There's one of the things I often talk to people in the long-term care industry about, and particularly attorneys that do what I do, attorneys that meet with older folks, is to keep an eye out for this Because, historically meaning last year, the year before. The year before, we were often dealing with folks that were from the World War II generation, either World War II veterans or their spouses or widows and Korean war veterans. Now, based on time and age, we're seeing a lot more Vietnam veterans and they're getting up into that age where they're needing long-term care services. So one of the things I've been trying to get other attorneys and other people in the long-term care industry to really kind of focus on is we have to shift our thinking a little bit, because a lot of times we were looking at aid and attendance benefits or Medicaid benefits and things like that. We get first weeks to check and see whether they might be entitled to compensation benefits, which are better benefits than the aid and attendance benefits, and so we can't keep an eye out and the issue spot on that and hopefully get some folks the benefits that they need and deserve and earned and keep an eye out for that. So I've been last probably five or six years, including that in a lot of my presentations to other attorneys and into the people that work in the long-term care industry, to say hey, let's keep an eye out for this for folks that served in Vietnam or during the Vietnam era and even, obviously, in Korea in the later stages of DMV. So that's the information.

Attorney Bob Mannor:

If you have questions, savannah's gonna come on and she's gonna give you some instructions on what's the best way to get any information. Of course, beyond just veterans benefits, there's always things that we wanna make sure we have in place. If you have a need to make sure your legal documents are up to date, or if we need to look at how to pay for long-term care services, we'd love to have you give us a call and we can help you out with that. So, savannah, if you wanna give them some instructions, Thanks, bob, and thanks everyone for joining us today.

Savannah Meksto:

As Bob mentioned, we do have some easy ways for you to get in touch with our team, whether to talk about veterans benefits or just your general planning. You can, of course, always give us a call toll-free Our phone number is 1-800-990-6030. Again, that's 1-800-990-6030. Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to seeing you again next time. Thanks for listening. To learn more, visit mannorlawgroup. com.

Veterans' Compensation for Agent Orange
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