Early yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit struck down the VA’s policy of denying disability benefits to Vietnam-era blue-water Navy veterans for exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides on a presumptive basis. In a case called Procopio v. Wilkie the court decided that veterans who served within the “territorial waters” of Vietnam are now entitled to … [Read more...] about Landmark court decision extends Agent Orange presumption to veterans who served in ‘territorial waters’ of Vietnam
Travis James West Articles
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming increasingly concerned that exposure to toxins produced by burn pits during deployments will mirror the experiences of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In an effort to help address these concerns, earlier this year Congress passed the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. This Act marks the … [Read more...] about Congress takes steps to expand burn pit research efforts
On December 7, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case called Procopio v. Wilke. Although this case has quietly made its way through the courts, it has the potential to dramatically change the manner in which the US Department of Veterans Affairs addresses service-connected disability benefits claims associated with … [Read more...] about Procopio: Agent Orange and the blue water Navy
For the first time, a federal agency recognized that exposure to burn pits used at a US military forward operating base may cause lung disease. This January an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in the Department of Labor (“DOL”) found that burn pit exposure caused lung disease in a government contractor working in Iraq. Ever since, social media platforms have been abuzz with … [Read more...] about Burn Pits and the VA: The Impact of the Department of Labor’s Landry Decision on Disability Claims Pending Before VA
There is no denying that the VA appeals process is in need of reform. As of 2016, veterans wait, on average, four and a half years for their first decision from the Board of Veteran Appeals. In an attempt to mitigate these wait times Congress recently passed the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA). VA is currently working on the regulatory framework, and the full … [Read more...] about Will VA Appeals Reform Reduce Wait Times for Veterans?
In order to prevail on a claim for VA disability benefits, a veteran must be able to demonstrate that the claimed condition is connected to their service. Demonstrating this service connection element can be difficult, if not impossible, when it comes to diseases or conditions for which the cause is not always readily apparent. Beginning in the late 1980's, Congress … [Read more...] about VA drags its feet on expanding Agent Orange Presumptive List
While many of us think of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a single entity, its functions are actually divided among three separate administrations: The Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration. The Veterans Health Administration, or VHA, is the part that administers the VA's hospitals and health care … [Read more...] about When the Veterans Health Administration commits medical negligence
The word veteran means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Growing up, I never gave much thought to what makes an individual a veteran. As a kid, I simply thought it applied to anyone who spent time in the military. In my mid-twenties I enlisted in the U.S. Army and was privileged to serve in one of the first units to be deployed to Afghanistan. Upon returning to Fort … [Read more...] about Through the VA’s looking glass: Are you a veteran?
The backlog. The backlog of pending claims for veterans' disability benefits has become the bogeyman that haunts the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Over the past several years, VA has exerted substantial efforts to exorcise this demon at the initial filing stage. In other words, VA focused its attention, with mixed results, on shortening the time it takes for vets to … [Read more...] about Report from Government Accountability Office addresses the VA’s backlog bogeyman
The United States government provides a panoply of entitlement programs for its citizens, many of which involve complex sets of rules and laws that can prove challenging for the average person to navigate. As a result, cottage industries chock full of lawyers have cropped up with specializations in areas such as Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment compensation. A major … [Read more...] about The right of veterans to choose their own advocates
On a Friday afternoon in late February, the US Department of Veterans Affairs filed a motion with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In this motion, the VA asked the court to stay (lawyer-speak for "pause") the effect of the court's decision in a case called Staab v. Shulkin. The Staab case addresses the question of when the VA must reimburse veterans who receive … [Read more...] about The Staab Case: The tension between Congressional mandate and funding of veterans’ benefits
As a former rating specialist for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, I can tell you first hand that a claim for PTSD is one of the most complicated and time-consuming claims the VA handles. As a result -- an unfortunate result -- many veterans wait years for decisions on these claims. This article provides a brief overview of the process in the hope that veterans will be … [Read more...] about Filing a claim for PTSD: The basics