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More Vietnam vets now qualify for disability benefits, but it may be years before they see the money

Published by Carson Frame

(Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network)

Decades after he deployed to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand in the late 1960s, Army veteran Jim Scott developed urinary symptoms that bothered him enough to go to the doctor.

“He asked for a urine sample,” Scott said. “He came back into the room and he said, ‘Guess what? You’ve got some urine in your blood.’ Because the little vial was full of blood instead of urine.”

It was bladder cancer. More than 20 tumors required surgery and chemotherapy. Scott suspected Agent Orange, an herbicide the U.S. government used in Vietnam, was to blame. So he filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which said he didn’t have enough proof that his military service caused his illness.

After his cancer was treated, Scott got involved with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network — sharing his story and counseling newly-diagnosed patients. He also lobbied Congress to recognize the link between bladder cancer and Agent Orange so that veterans could get VA disability benefits without specific proof.

It finally happened last year.

“I was ecstatic,” Scott said. “It was like: Are you kidding me? ‘Breaking news! VA expands benefits for conditions related to certain toxic exposures.’ That's what I remember most.”

Three new presumptive conditions were added: bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism. The VA is sending letters to eligible veterans and has pledged to revisit previously denied claims.

But Scott said the packet of paperwork he received didn't fully explain the process. Instead, it asked him for additional information about his service, medical conditions, and beneficiaries. He ended up confused about how the claims process will proceed.

"It's like, 'Okay, once I fill it out, am I done?'" Scott said. "Do I just wait, or is there something else that I should do?"

Veterans advocates say the VA’s communications are often boilerplate, and veterans can have a difficult time applying the information to their specific issues or claims....

Read full article on The American Homefront Project.


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