/PRNewswire/ -- United Spinal Association/VetsFirst and other veterans organizations scored a victory yesterday for Vietnam veterans suffering from diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit instructed the VA to issue within 30 days new rules for paying disability benefits to Vietnam veterans stricken with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson's disease, or B-cell leukemias.
The rules impact an estimated 200,000 Vietnam veterans who suffer from one of the three Agent Orange-related diseases or their survivors.
The unanimous three-judge panel said VA must publish final rules on the three diseases in the Federal Register within 30 days. The VA claimed it could not issue the rules by the June 23rd deadline set by an act of Congress, because it was waiting for another federal agency (the Office of Management and Budget) to review them.
For many veterans and survivors, the date that VA rules are published has an impact on the amount of financial benefits they will receive. If a Vietnam veteran or survivor files a claim before VA publishes the rules on the three diseases, they are eligible for benefits retroactive to the date the claim is filed.
By law, veterans who file after the rules are published, receive benefits retroactive to the effective date of the regulation. For every month that publication is delayed, these veterans and survivors lose a month of benefits.
The VA estimates that as many as 150,000 Vietnam veterans and survivors have yet to file their paperwork. The veterans organizations believe the publication of rules in 30 days will likely result in a flood of additional VA claims.
Paul J. Tobin, president and CEO of United Spinal Association said, "We urge all veterans and their survivors who have been affected by Agent Orange-related diseases to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of the retroactive benefits available to them. This court decision will improve the quality of life of many individuals who have been suffering for far too long, but it's vital that veterans file now before the rules are published."
"We filed this request because veterans who have given so much for our country, should not have their compensation claims delayed because two federal agencies can't get their act together and comply with the law," said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of NVLSP. "Today's court order is a victory for our Vietnam veterans, and sends a strong message to federal bureaucrats - that bureaucratic delays will not be tolerated."
The successful request for a judicial remedy was filed in July 2010 by a coalition of veterans service organizations: United Spinal Association/VetsFirst; the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP); the Paralyzed Veterans of America; and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association. The organizations received pro-bono legal help from Chadbourne & Parke LLP.
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