By Tom Philpott
Special to Stars and Stripes
Published: November 4, 2010
Many Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease or B-cell leukemia expected VA compensation for their illnesses to begin soon after a 60-day congressional review period ended Oct. 30.
Though the first batch of payments went out this week, the relatively small number — about 1300 claims worth $8 million — reinforced the fact that the process for calculating retroactive payments is lengthy and complex.
VA expects to produce a steady stream of rating decisions and payments each week for these diseases,but there will not be a flood of checks as some veterans had hoped.
Most of 163,000 veterans or survivors with pending claims for these diseases should expect a longer wait, at least several more months. The VA goal is to have all these claims processed and paid by October next year.
After VA published its final regulation Aug. 31 to add these diseases to its list of ailments presumed caused by herbicide exposure in Vietnam, Congress had 60 days to block it. To veterans’ relief, it chose not to do so.
VA used that time to do preliminary work on many claims but had to stop short of assigning disability ratings. That’s because VA computers are programmed to assign a payment date with each rating and, by law, none of these claims could be paid before the 60 days had passed.
Claim specialists don’t have all the information they need yet to rate many of the older claims. Many veterans and survivors in line for retroactive payments, some going back 25 years, are being asked to provide letters from private physicians explaining when the ailments first were diagnosed.
READ MORE: http://www.stripes.com/news/paying-new-agent-orange-claims-a-complex-drill-1.124318