WASHINGTON (CN) – Reservists who flew planes previously used to spray Agent Orange now will more easily receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency says.
“Specifically, the VA is expanding its regulations to include individuals who performed service in the Air Force or Air Force Reserve who had regular and repeated contact with C-123 aircraft known to have been used to spray ‘Agent Orange’ an herbicide, during the Vietnam era,” according to a new interim regulation.
In addition, the regulation will establish a presumption that members of this group who later develop an Agent Orange presumptive condition were disabled during the relevant period of service, thus establishing that this service constituted “active, naval, military or air service.”
The effect of this action is to presume herbicide exposure for these individuals and to allow individuals who were exposed to herbicides during reserve service to establish veteran status for VA purposes and eligibility for some VA benefits, according to the interim regulation.
This action results from a recent decision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge that individuals who had regular and repeated exposure to C-123 aircraft that the United States Air Force used to spray the herbicides in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand were exposed to Agent Orange.
This interim final rule is effective on June 19, and applicable to any claim for service connection for an Agent Orange presumptive condition filed by a covered individual that is pending on or after June 19.
The VA is not making the claims for benefits retroactive, however, so those with longstanding issues whose claims had been denied will have to reapply, and coverage would begin only as of that date, should their claim be accepted, according to a U.S. armed services website, Military.com.
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