VAM Email Alert: February 2019

FEBRUARY 2019
 


 

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Handed Court Victory

On Tuesday, January 29th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. decided a case that restores a presumption of exposure to the chemicals collectively known as Agent Orange for veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam during the war. The case, Procopio v. Wilkie, reverses the courts own ruling from 2006 in Haas v. Peake that erroneously excluded Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans from the Agent Orange Act of 1991. That case sided with a Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) reading of the Act by interpreting “service in the Republic of Vietnam” to narrowly mean only on the land mass of the country or its inland waterways. Procopio holds that it was the intent of Congress to include Blue Water Veterans under the Agent Orange Act and that the VA erred in its interpretation.

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans now have the same presumption of exposure as any other Vietnam Veteran who served between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. The presumption of exposure makes it much easier for veterans to make a claim for benefits, as they no longer must definitively prove they came into contact with Agent Orange if they developed one of the diseases recognized to be caused by exposure. Myeloma is one of those recognized diseases.

While this is fantastic news for the estimated 60,000 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans affected by the courts ruling, it’s still important that this benefit be legislatively reinforced as the VA may choose to appeal Procopio to the Supreme Court. With the new Congress, a new Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) has been reintroduced in the House. We urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support this bill.



VA’s Proposed Rules for Veteran Community Care Now Open for Public Comment

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the publication beginning February 23rd of a proposed regulation in the Federal Register for the new Veterans community care program, including access standards. The proposed regulation would establish new rules for the Veterans community care program required by section 101 of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act (MISSION Act) of 2018.

The IMF plans to comment on this proposal and ensure the interests of veterans with myeloma is taken into account. If you would like to comment individually:


 

VA’s Appeals Moderation Act Takes Effect

On February 19th the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has implemented the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed into law Aug. 23, 2017, and represents one of the most significant statutory changes to benefit Veterans in decades.

“This is a historic day for VA, its stakeholders and, most importantly, for Veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act comes as a direct result of collaboration among VA, Congress and Veteran Service Organizations to deliver on Veterans’ longstanding desire for reform of the legacy appeals system. Beginning today, Veterans will have greater choice in how VA reviews their disagreement with a VA claims decision and enjoy timely resolutions of disagreements through a streamlined process.”

Effective as of February 19th, Veterans who appeal a VA claims decision have three decision review options:

Higher-Level ReviewSupplemental Claim and Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

  • In the Higher-Level Review option, a more experienced adjudicator will conduct a new review of the previous decision.
  • Veterans who select the Supplemental Claim option may submit new and relevant evidence, and VA will assist in developing new evidence under its duty to assist.
  • If Veterans appeal a decision to the Board, they can choose one of three dockets: direct review, evidence or hearing.


 


 
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