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The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395) went into effect on January 1, 2021, and with it, parkinsonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism were added to the list of medical issues for which veterans may now receive benefits. Such additions are rare—more than ten years have passed since the last time new illnesses were added to the list—and so this is a noteworthy win worthy of celebration.
The new legislation is aimed at Vietnam veterans who came in contact with tactical herbicides during their service but also may apply to certain units serving in the Korean War. In both conflicts, Agent Orange, a powerful defoliant, was used to strip foliage providing cover to enemy troops. However effective, the chemical has also been linked to severe side effects in those who were exposed.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 paved the way for the National Academy of Sciences to conduct studies and gather evidence concerning the effects of military service exposure to defoliants and herbicides. Early research connected a number of illnesses to contact with Agent Orange and the list has only grown in the decades following the substance’s wartime use. The three illnesses recognized by H.R. 6395 are the newest to gain formal recognition, but they surely will not be the last.
According to Veterans’ Affairs (VA) data, parkinsonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism affect at least 83,000 veterans nation-wide and together are responsible for the massive loss of life. While some of those who have been impacted already received Veterans’ Benefits for other war-related injuries, many more do not.
Any veteran who suffers from the illnesses discussed in this article should apply to the VA for benefits. Indeed, even those previously denied Veterans’ Benefits should reapply in light of this policy change. The VA, after all, has affirmed that it will reconsider past denials for the conditions now recognized and grant retroactive compensation. Spouses and children of veterans who have died from parkinsonism, bladder cancer, or hypothyroidism should also reach out to the VA as they, too, may be eligible for benefits.
Should you have questions about the specifics contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 or require help determining how this new legislation impacts you, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm. It would be our pleasure to talk to you about these important changes, assist you with the benefits application process, and address any other legal matters of specific concern to veterans benefits.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm