Agent Orange Presumptives
September 23, 2010 Hearing – Key Points  

                       

Environmental Exposures:

  • VA’s primary mission is to be an advocate for Veterans of all eras.
  • Veterans who endure health problems as a result of their service deserve access to health care and benefits.
  • VA has a responsibility to review the latest evidence-based science to understand if illnesses Veterans are encountering are connected to service.

                   

Presumptives:

  • The presumptions established by Congress and VA have been invaluable in addressing the challenges of claims involving unique circumstances and claims involving devastating diseases.
  • The presumption of service connection relieves claimants of the need to submit evidence showing that their disabilities were incurred in or caused by their service.
    • First, it relieves claimants of the burden of submitting medical evidence directly linking the onset of their condition to service, a burden that would be difficult to meet where the condition manifests at a time remote from service and the relevant medical principles may not be widely known.
    • Second, it ensures that similar claims are given similar treatment.
    • Third, it enables VA to process claims more quickly by relying upon medical principles that need not be independently established in each case.
    • Fourth, it helps Veterans, who may not have been otherwise eligible, obtain prompt medical assistance for their service-connected conditions. 

  • Presumptions will continue to be an important part of the Veterans’ benefits system for the foreseeable future.

Agent Orange

  • The Agent Orange Act was a compromise between the desire for scientific certainty and the need to address the legitimate health concerns of Veterans exposed to herbicides in service.
  • Throughout the entire Agent Orange review process VA followed the guidelines created by Congress.
  • The presumptive disability decision-making process involves numerous steps and several VA stakeholders.
  • The key word for environmental exposures, presumptives, and Agent Orange is prevention:
    • Prevent denial of health care to Veterans.
    • Provide compensation and pension benefits to Veterans.
    • Prevent asking the same questions 40 years later and making the same mistakes.
    • Prevent the high cost of health care and benefits as a result of neglect to diagnose and treat.

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