American Legion's Dispatch - Agent Orande VA benefits expanded - The Department of Veterans Affairs recently published a new regulation that expands eligibility for some VA benefits for Air Force veterans and Air Force reserve veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft that had been used in Vietnam as part of Operation Ranch Hand (ORH).
VA published this regulation as an interim final rule so it could immediately begin providing benefits to eligible personnel who submit a disability compensation claim for any of the 14 medical conditions that have been determined by VA to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.
Under this rule, eligible Air Force veterans who served on the contaminated ORH C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during their service, thus making it easier to establish entitlement for VA benefits if they develop an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition. In addition, for affected Air Force reserve veterans, VA will presume their Agent Orange-related condition had its onset during their reserve training. This change ensures these reservists are eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any Agent Orange-related presumptive condition and their surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits. Individuals with specific benefit questions related to herbicide exposure on C-123s may call VA’s special C-123 hotline at (800) 749-8387.
Work to continue at Colorado VA medical center
On June 11, the U.S. Senate passed another short-term funding bill that would keep work ongoing at the new VA hospital in Aurora, Colo., until at least October. The $150 million measure was passed just days before the troubled Colorado project was set to shut down because of a lack of money. The bill was approved by the House by a voice vote and the measure was enacted by President Barack Obama on June 15 as Public Law 114-24.
This is the latest chapter in a legislative drama that has consumed the Colorado delegation since March when VA revealed the cost of the Aurora hospital had ballooned to $1.73 billion. Because the project had a budget of roughly half that amount, Colorado lawmakers have spent the past few months trying to keep money flowing so the prime contractor, Kiewit-Turner, doesn’t suspend work at the medical campus. These actions mark the second time in a month that Congress has bailed out the project. At the end of May, lawmakers agreed to allow VA and Kiewit-Turner to spend an additional $20 million on the hospital, which bought the project another three weeks by enactment of P.L. 114-19. But neither that law nor the one signed by the president on June 15 provides a longterm funding solution.
Reported by Brett Reistad, chairman National Legislative Commission - July 7, 2015 - See more at: http://www.legion.org/dispatch/228715/agent-orange-va-benefits-expanded#sthash.02gDG83l.dpuf