On October 13, 2009, Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Shinseki established service connection for Vietnam veterans with three conditions; Parkinson’s, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease. This is major news for our Vietnam Veterans who suffer with any of these diseases. It is also major news for the surviving spouses of Vietnam veterans who died of any of these diseases. The veteran’s death certificate should list one of these presumptive diseases as the cause of death or the cause of death must be clearly linked to one of these diseases. The decision to add these new disability conditions was based on scientific evidence linking these conditions to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide sprayed in Vietnam. The VA typically requires proof of “boot on the ground” or direct exposure to Agent Orange to qualify.
Please note that on November 2009, the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission released a bulletin stating that the VA instructed its regional offices to stay the adjudication of all claims seeking presumptive service connection related to the three new conditions pending the introduction of final regulations into the Federal Registry. However, veterans and surviving spouses who would qualify for these benefits are urged to go ahead and submit a claim to help lock in a retro-active payment date.