Agent Orange exposure disability benefits to include Navy veterans

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AFTER THE SHOW Executive Producer Glenda Smith (standing) shares a GO BEARS thumbs up with Cliff Kelley as guests, Hughes Turner (foreground) and Pete D. Hardy III, express the same sentiments.

By Walter D. Weathers

The America’s Heroes Group weekly live radio talk show on August 10 included Veterans Benefit Administration leadership, Hughes Turner, Director, CHIRO, along with Pete D. Hardy III, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Hardy, from the Vocational, Rehabilitation and Employment Office, participated as part of discussions on The Blue Water Navy Act of 2019, VA Home Loan Funding Fee and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education program.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 signed into law on June 25, 2019, effective January 1, 2020, expands the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange to veterans who served on vessels operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.

To be entitled to disability compensation benefits, veterans must have a diagnosis of one or more conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure.

Generally, all beneficiaries using the VA Home Loan Guaranty benefit must pay a funding fee. The funding fee is a percentage of the loan amount. The individuals listed below are exempt from paying the fee:

Veterans receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability, or

Veterans who would be entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability if they did not receive retirement or active duty pay, or

Veterans who are rated eligible to receive compensation resulting from a pre-discharge disability examination or rating or based on a pre-discharge review of existing medical evidence that results in the issuance of a memorandum rating, or

Surviving spouses of veterans who died in service or from a service-connected disability.

If you have questions about the VA funding call the VA Regional Loan Center at (877) 827-3702 and select option 2 to speak with a Loan Specialist.

Additionally, the listening audience was introduced to the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E). The program’s mission is to help veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VR&E offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.

Veterans are eligible for the VR&E program if they have an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge, a VA service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or more; or memorandum rating of 20 percent and apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.

An active duty servicemember is eligible for the VR&E program if he/she expects to receive an honorable discharge, obtains a VA memorandum rating of 20 percent or more, obtains a Proposed Disability Evaluation Service (DES) rating.

Additionally, a servicemember who is awaiting discharge due to a medical condition resulting from a serious injury or illness that occurred in the line of duty may be automatically entitled to VR&E benefits under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008.

Finally, the servicemember must apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.

Walter D. Weathers, MBA, is a management analyst and public affairs officer in the Veterans Administration Chicago Regional Office.  

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