VA to readjudicate past claims for possible herbicide exposure
On 14 May, the VA formally announced that military veterans who were previously denied service connection for an herbicide related presumptive condition due to lack of in-country Vietnam service will have their claims automatically readjudicated by VA. “Readjudication means VA will review the evidence of record and provide replacement decisions in the cases of those who were previously denied service connection benefits,” said Acting VA Under Secretary for Benefits Thomas Murphy. The review also applies to eligible survivors of deceased Vietnam-era veterans, an issue of significance nowadays due to past VA delays.
This action is resulting from the Veterans Benefits Administration’s implementation of the Nov. 5, 2020, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California order in Nehmer vs. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requiring VA to readjudicate previously denied claims. As a result, the VA will determine if benefits for qualifying disabilities can now be paid retroactively to the date of previously denied claims. The court’s decision requires automatic readjudication in such cases without requiring a new claim, and potentially paying benefits to the survivors or estates of deceased beneficiaries.
The department had already begun readjudicating claims in April for Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War but were denied for one or more herbicide related conditions, on the basis that military service was not performed on the landmass of the Republic of Vietnam or on its inland waterways (related to the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019). This announcement extends the action much further. Presence in Vietnam is not a requirement. More information on this can be found at VA’s Agent Orange exposure webpage.
As of 19 May 2021