Thursday, November 10, 2011

Attention Vietnam Veterans and Their Families!!!

Are you a Vietnam Veteran who suffers with (or the loved one of a veteran who died of) Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart condition, or a B-cell leukemia or another condition that can be linked to one of these?
Did you (the veteran) or the deceased veteran serve in the Republic of Vietnam, the waterways of Vietnam, or on the Korean DMZ any time from January 9, 1962 thru May 7, 1975?
Did you (the veteran), the deceased veteran, or the deceased surviving spouse (or deceased child or parent) previously file a claim for benefits based upon the veteran having or dying of one of these conditions and was this claim denied?
If the answer to all of the above three questions is "Yes", you may now be able to go back and have this previous claim re-opened as a Nehmer class member if you were the original person who filed the claim OR have the original claim opened for accrued benefits owed to this deceased person if you are a family member. 

Normally, if benefits are granted on the basis of a new regulation, the law states that the effective date of the award may not be earlier than the date on which the regulation went into effect.  Nehmer has changed all of this for these Agent Orange claims, making the effective date of the award the later of the date the claim was filed or the date the disability arose.  This can result in a HUGE amount of retro-active benefits; possibly tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the claimant.

Accrued benefits paid in the case where the original Nehmer class member has died may be paid to a spouse (regardless of marital status), a child (regardless of age or marital status), parents, or even the estate of the deceased class member.
Because these three conditions are all combat related, a retired military veteran who is receiving military retirement from the Department of Defense can also apply for Combat Related Special Compensation (monetary) benefits from the DOD.  This is a matching amount of money to what the VA has awarded in service connected compensation, provided that the veteran is rated at least 10%.  It is an offset to military retirement, but is non-taxable; whereas, military retirement is taxable income.

In the case of a surviving spouse, please remember that one may be able to go back on prior spouses for VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits and it may also be possible for a parent of a single soldier/veteran who died service connected to file for DIC, regardless of that parent's age or when the soldier/veteran died.  Also remember that assets never matter in a DIC claim and income matters only in a parent's claim.

The VA is currently going back and re-opening hundreds of thousands of claims and attempting to contact both veterans and survivors to see if benefits are owed.  Meanwhile, we have an obligation to mention Nehmer to those client's who may have family and friends who served in Vietnam.  Obviously, the VA cannot possibly keep track of everyone.

Reprinted with permission by:
Karen McIntyre, R.N., VA Accredited Agent
President Veterans Information Services, Inc.