The Knowledge Ninja — FAQs

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About VetsHQ

  • Does VetsHQ fill out the claim application packet for me?
    VetsHQ helps you eliminate the guesswork of which of the approximately 175 forms should be included in your claim package As a premium member, these forms are automatically populated based on the information entered in the questionnaires, saving you time and effort. In addition, the forms are saved so that you can reprint any of the forms as needed. Uploaded proof documents are stored securely in the VetsHQ Vault, and like your forms, can be accessed and printed 24/7 at your convenience. Using the VetsHQ Compensation section as an example, one click of the “All Documents” button, you will be able to see all of the possible forms that can be used in a disability compensation claim. Not all forms are needed for a claim, and coaching from certified veteran service officers is available to help ensure your claim package is complete and strong. For member convenience, several individual document packages for disability compensation are ready for use now, and more individual document packages will be posted soon. The individual document packages also include proof documents that are recommended or required to be included in the claim package for submission to the VA. Before submitting a claim to the VA, we strongly recommend reviewing all pre-populated information for accuracy and completeness. Unanswered questions can delay your claim if the VA needs to request additional information. We also suggest a review of the form instructions to help understand the intent of form questions and required evidence presented through proof documents.

Agent Orange

  • Could I have been exposed to Agent Orange at Fort McClellan?
    In a May 2010 response to inquiries by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense (DoD) certified that a "review of the DoD documentation does not show any use, testing or storage of tactical herbicides, such as Agent Orange, at any location in Alabama, to include Fort McClellan." The DoD stated, however, that records would not reflect "small scale non-tactical herbicide applications" such as routine base maintenance activities like range management, brush clearing, or weed killing. In 2011, a veteran won his case before the VA's Board of Veterans' Appeals by demonstrating his exposure to Agent Orange during training at Fort McClellan in 1969. In a 1976 report, the U.S. Army Hygiene Agency, as part of its "Installation Pest Management Program Review," said that between 1974 and 1976, nearly 12,000 gallons of herbicide 2,4,5-T (trichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 18,000 gallons of herbicide 2,4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) were used at Fort McClellan. Agent Orange is a 50/50 mixture of those two herbicides. In 1975, 4,000 gallons of pichloram (#160) was also used at Fort McClellan. These are the herbicide agents outlined in 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(i).
  • Could I have been exposed to Agent Orange in Panama?
    There are many, many anecdotal reports of Agent Orange in Panama and the Panama Canal Zone during the 1960s and 1970s, including from veterans who were there and say they handled the herbicidal agents. To date, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have not acknowledged herbicide use in the Panama Canal Zone at any point. But cases of veterans who had appealed their denied claims to the Board of Veterans Appeals have brought additional sources to light, such as:
    • An August 20, 1999 article by the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, “U.S. military tested Agent Orange in Panama, accounts say,” detailed that the Government of Panama was seeking $500 million from the U.S. military in damages and cleanup costs related to “thousands of acres of rangeland used for weapons and ammunition tests since World War II.’’ In that same article, a spokesman for the Southern Command states, “Our bottom line on our side is that we have no knowledge that it happened. We have no evidence that Agent Orange was actually sprayed in Panama.”
    • An August 24, 1999 article in the Dallas Morning News, “Agent Orange May Have Been Used On Bases,” has an officer source stating that there were “hundreds of barrels” of Agent Orange that were unaccounted for in Panama.
    However, in three cases before the Board of Veterans Appeals that we were able to locate, no appeal for exposure to Agent Orange in Panama has so far been successful.
  • What if a ship I served on is not on the VA Agent Orange list?
    Before the Department of Veterans Affairs will conduct research on a ship that is not listed on the VA's ships list for brown water or blue water craft during the Vietnam War, a veteran must file a claim for a service-connected disability related to Agent Orange. The VA also requires this for survivors and children with birth defects. Veterans who are not filing a claim for a service-connected disability related to Agent Orange may research on their own and provide evidence to the VA. This evidence includes deck logs, ship histories, and cruise book entries. Ship deck logs can be found at the National Archives at College Park, Md. What the VA requires in evidence:
    • The ship or craft entering the inland waterways of Vietnam, or
    • Docking in Vietnam, or
    • Sending crew members ashore
    The VA does not consider ships or craft anchored in open water harbors such as Da Nang Harbor as sufficient evidence for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure. Veterans must scan their documentary evidence and email it to 211_AOSHIPS.VBACO@va.gov. Please do not include personal information in any emails sent to this address.
  • What presumptive diseases are associated with exposure to herbicide agents?
    Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309, 38 U.S.C. 1110, 1112, and 1131, if a veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent during active military, naval, or air service, the following diseases shall be service-connected if the requirements are met even though there is no record of such disease during service, provided further that the rebuttable presumption provisions are also satisfied. In some cases, a veteran may the burden of establishing the exposure and service connection through service records.
    • AL amyloidosis
    • Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne
    • Type 2 diabetes (also known as Type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes)
    • Hodgkin's disease
    • Ischemic heart disease (including, but not limited to, acute, subacute, and old myocardial infarction; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease (including coronary spasm) and coronary bypass surgery; and stable, unstable and Prinzmetal's angina)
    • All chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
    • Porphyria cutanea tarda
    • Prostate cancer
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)
    • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
    Note 1: The term “soft-tissue sarcoma” includes the following:
    • Adult fibrosarcoma
    • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
    • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
    • Liposarcoma
    • Leiomyosarcoma
    • Epithelioid leiomyosarcoma (malignant leiomyoblastoma)
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma
    • Ectomesenchymoma
    • Angiosarcoma (hemangiosarcoma and lymphangiosarcoma)
    • Proliferating (systemic) angioendotheliomatosis
    • Malignant glomus tumor
    • Malignant hemangiopericytoma
    • Synovial sarcoma (malignant synovioma)
    • Malignant giant cell tumor of tendon sheath
    • Malignant schwannoma, including malignant schwannoma with rhabdomyoblastic differentiation (malignant Triton tumor), glandular and epithelioid malignant schwannomas
    • Malignant granular cell tumor
    • Alveolar soft part sarcoma
    • Epithelioid sarcoma
    • Clear cell sarcoma of tendons and aponeuroses
    • Extraskeletal Ewing's sarcoma
    • Congenital and infantile fibrosarcoma
    • Malignant ganglioneuroma
    Note 2: For purposes of this section, the term acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy means transient peripheral neuropathy that appears within weeks or months of exposure to an herbicide agent and resolves within two years of the date of onset.
    Note 3: For purposes of this section, the term ischemic heart disease does not include hypertension or peripheral manifestations of arteriosclerosis such as peripheral vascular disease or stroke, or any other condition that does not qualify within the generally accepted medical definition of Ischemic heart disease.
  • Are the children of Vietnam veterans eligible for benefits because of Agent Orange?
    Yes, in some cases. The VA currently recognizes spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta), an incomplete closing of the spine, in biological children of a veteran with qualifying military service.  The children must have been conceived after the veteran first entered Vietnam or the Korean DMZ during one of these time periods and locations:
    • The birth mother or father must have served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, or
    • In or near the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971 if exposed to herbicides, or
    • In or near the Korean DMZ between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 – veterans are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides in this time period.
    The birth defect must have resulted in a permanent physical or mental disability. Covered birth defects do not include conditions due to family disorders, birth-related injuries, or fetal or neonatal infirmities with well-established causes. In addition, the level of disability takes into account the limitations on cognition, communication, motor abilities, activities of daily living, and employability. The VA provides compensation, limited health care benefits, and vocational training for eligible children of Veterans exposed to the herbicide.   VA benefits are provided through the authority of existing law and regulations, including 38 USC 1804, 38 USC 1805, 38 USC 1815, 38 USC 1821, 38 CFR 17.900 and 38 CFR 17.901.  As with other VA benefits, all eligibility criteria must be met. There are several research studies about Vietnam Era Veterans’ exposure to herbicides, including Agent Orange,  by The Department of Veteran Affairs(VA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and The Institute of Medicine (IOM).  Another excellent source of information about Agent Orange is the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s PubMed, which can be found here.
  • I served during the Vietnam War in Thailand. How does Agent Orange affect me?
    Vietnam-era Veterans whose service involved duty on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 may have been exposed to herbicides and may qualify for VA benefits. The following Veterans may have been exposed to herbicides:
    • U.S. Air Force Veterans who served on Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bases at U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, and Don Muang, near the air base perimeter anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
    • U.S. Army Veterans who provided perimeter security on RTAF bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
    • U.S. Army Veterans who were stationed on some small Army installations in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. However, the Army Veteran must have been a member of a military police (MP) unit or was assigned an MP military occupational specialty whose duty placed him/her at or near the base perimeter.
    To receive benefits for diseases associated with herbicide exposure, these Veterans must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during their service as shown by evidence of daily work duties, performance evaluation reports, or other credible evidence. The VA Web-Automated Reference Material System (WARMS) Manual, M21-1MR, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section C details the locations and military occupational specialties that are considered for exposure to herbicides in Thailand. The manual also has a copy of the Memorandum for Record used by the VA in claims that do not match specific locations or military occupational specialties listed in the manual. Outside of the service of locations for the presumptive diseases, VA adjudicates claims for service and exposure in other locations, include Thailand, on a fact-based, case-by-case basis. There have been successful appeals of VA denials of claims arising out of service in Thailand, most recently in a case decided in April 2014 (Citation Nr: 1418202, Decision Date: 04/23/2014).
  • I’m a civilian who supported U.S. military in Vietnam. Am I eligible for Agent Orange compensation?
    An estimated 72,000 to 171,000 civilians were in Vietnam supporting the U.S. war effort there, despite not being part of the military. These include those who worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Vietnam, members of the Red Cross workers, USO workers, members of the media, among other occupations. Some of these individuals have suffered many of the same types of illnesses as servicemembers who were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides. There is no current system in place by the U.S. government to acknowledge or address claims by non-military personnel in Vietnam. There are situations in which civilians may be entitled to compensation because of exposure to a particular hazard, but this is not the case with Agent Orange. Some civilians who worked at military bases may have had an limited opportunity to file a claim with the Department of Labor, essentially a workers' compensation claim, through the Defense Base Act of 1941. This act covers bases overseas, but the claim must have been filed no later than one year from the date of the injury — too late for civilians who experienced diseases or illness for the first time decades after initial exposure.

Benefit Payments

  • Are there any reasons a veteran would not receive benefits?
    There are several issues that would bar a veteran from receiving federal veterans benefits. They are:
    • Conscientious objector
    • General court martial
    • Deserter
    • Alien during a period of hostilities
    • Officer who resigned for the good of the service
    • Absence without official leave (AWOL) for at least 180 continuous days
    • Acceptance of an "undesirable" to avoid General Court Martial
    • Mutiny or spying
    • Conviction or felony
    • Willful or persistent misconduct
    • Homosexual acts involving aggravation circumstances or other factors affecting duty or accompanied by assault or coercion, child molestation, homosexual prostitution, acts taking place between disparate ranks, grade, status when taking advantage of rank.
  • What is the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program?
    The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-154) was signed on August 6, 2012.   This law requires the VA to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune Family Members for eligible health care costs related to one or more of 15 specific illness or conditions. Both the Veteran and Family Member must meet specific criteria:
    • The Veteran must have served active duty for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.
    • The Family Member (spouse or dependent) either lived or were in utero during the same time period.
    • The Family Member must have been diagnosed with one or more illnesses or conditions in the list below:
    Bladder cancer Breast cancer Esophageal cancer Female infertility Hepatic steatosis
    Kidney cancer Leukemia Lung Cancer Miscarriage Multiple myeloma
    Myelodysplastic syndromes Neurobehavioral effects Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Renal toxicity Scleroderma
    The VA is not providing direct health care to family members.  Family members are being reimbursed for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to the 15 illnesses and conditions listed above.   Reimbursement is limited to payment for treatments after receiving payment from all other health plans. Family members are advised to keep receipts for health care expenses paid for one of the covered 15 illness or conditions on or after March 26, 2013.  This is the date the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program was funded. The law signed August 6, 2012 applies to health care only; it does not have provision for disability compensation. Evidence of dependency and Camp Lejeune residency  must be submitted to the VA.   Evidence can be shown through documents such as the Veteran’s military orders, base housing records, utility bill, pay stub, tax form, award citations that show dates of service at Camp Lejeune or other documents.  Proof of dependency can be shown through a marriage certificate, birth certificate, adoption papers, school records or other legal documents. Evidence of one of the included illnesses or conditions, the date of onset of the condition and verification of current treatment must be shown through medical documentation.  This information is captured on the VA Form 10-10068b Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report dated October 2014. Proof documentation should be submitted with the VA Form 10-10068, Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application.  While the VA will accept a claim form without documentation, you may experience a delay in processing. Applications are also accepted online here, although proof documentation must be either mailed or faxed to: Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Services Center P.O. Box 149200 Austin, TX  78714-9200 FAX:  512.460.5536 The VA Customer Service Center can be reached at 1.866.372.1144.
  • What Is the VA’s Policy Regarding Benefits to Same-Sex Couples?
    According to VA guidance, marriages will be accepted as valid according to where the couple lived at the time of marriage or where the couple lived when a claim was filed.  This guidance, developed in consultation with other federal agencies, is based in law.
       
    38 USC 103 – Special Provisions relating to marriages
        “(c) In determining whether or not a person is or was the spouse of a veteran, their marriage shall be proven as valid for the purposes of all laws administered by the Secretary according to the law of the place where the parties resided at the time of the marriage or the law of the place where the parties resided when the right to benefits accrued.”
         
      Yes – your marriage is valid for VA benefits or services if:
          • If your marriage was legal where you or your spouse lived, where you or your spouse lived when a claim was filed, or where you or your spouse lived when eligibility requirements for benefits were met.
          • If you or your spouse move to a state where same-sex marriage is legal while a claim for VA benefits is pending.
          • If the Veteran is deceased, and his/her last state of residence held that same-sex marriages was legal.
           
        No – your marriage is not valid for VA benefits or services if:
        • If your marriage was not legal where you or your spouse lived, where you or your spouse lived when a claim was filed, or where you or your spouse lived when eligibility requirements for benefits were met (i.e., you had to travel to a recognition state for the ceremony).
        • If the state in which you or your spouse live, where you or your spouse lived when a claim was filed, or where you or your spouse lived when eligibility requirements for benefits were met does not recognize your marriage that took place in another State.
        • If the Veteran is deceased, and his/her last state of residence held that same-sex marriages was not legal.
  • Will the VA Pay Retroactive Compensation and Pension Benefits for Claims Involving Same-Sex Couples?
    For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim, if the claim was pending as of September 4, 2013 (the date of the President's directive), the effective date will be assigned as if the laws barring VA's recognition of same-sex marriage had never been in effect. In some instances, this could mean an effective date as early as the date of marriage or as early as when VA received the claim.
       
    For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim that was not pending as of September 4, 2013, provided that the claimant met all of the eligibility requirements for the benefit by that date, and the claim was received within the following year,
       
      VA generally will assign an effective date of September 4, 2013.
    For claims received more than one year after September 4, 2013, if the claimant met all eligibility requirements on that date, VA may assign an effective date up to one year prior to the date of the claim.
       
      This provides a grace period for persons who were previously ineligible for benefits under the law to learn of the President's directive, and to submit claims and applications based on that change.
         
        Not all VA benefits are subject to the provisions of 38 USC 103(c), such as life insurance proceeds paid to a designated beneficiary, dependent education benefits for Department of Defense-approved transfers of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance or certain burial benefits. However, all eligibility requirements must be met for these and any other benefits or services offered by the VA.
  • What Is the EFT Requirement for Education Benefits?
    In June 2014, VA Form 22-1990 Application for VA Education Benefits was updated with the following information: “The Department of Treasury requires all Federal benefit payments be made by electronic funds transfer (EFT), also called direct deposit (Direct Deposit is not available for Chapter 32 recipients1.) Please attach a voided personal check or deposit slip or provide the information requested below to enroll in direct deposit.  If you do not have a bank account, you must receive your payment through Direct Express Debit MasterCard. To request a Direct Express Debit MasterCard you must apply at www.usdirectexpress.com or by telephone at 1-800-333-1795. If you elect not to enroll, you must contact representatives handling waiver requests for the Department of Treasury at 1-888-224-2950. They will address any questions or concerns you may have and encourage your participation in EFT.”1
          Chapter 32 recipients are those who are receiving education benefits under the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).
  • Can I Get A Waiver From Having Electronic Funds Transfers?
    Waivers granted by the U.S. Treasury are rare:
    • If you live in a remote location without a banking infrastructure that supports electronic financial transactions
    • If a hardship would occur due to a mental impairment
    • If you were born on or before May 1, 1921
    If any of these situations apply to you, a waiver form is available — Request for Payment of Federal Benefits by Check, FS Form 1201W (March 2014). This form is available at http://www.godirect.org/. The completed form should be submitted to: U.S. Treasury, Electronic Payment Solution Center, P.O. Box 650015, Dallas, TX 75265-0015. You may also call 855-290-1545 to request a waiver or get more information.
  • If I Am Approved For Benefits, How Will I Receive Money?
    As of March 1, 2013, if you receive or are applying for these federal benefits, you are required by law (31 USC 3332, and 31 CFR 208) to receive payments through direct deposit to your bank or credit union account or to a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card:
    • Social Security
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Veterans Affairs
    • Railroad Retirement Board
    • Office of Personnel Management
    • Department of Labor (Black Lung)
    If you are currently receiving your payments by paper check, you are out of compliance and must switch to an electronic payment option. Go to http://www.godirect.org/ for more information.

Burials & Memorials

  • Where Do I Send Burials and Memorials Claims?
    Documentation should be mailed to your nearest VA Regional Office:   Eastern Region(For residents of Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, New Hampshire,
      Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont)
    Mail to:
            VA Regional Office
            PO Box 4616
            Buffalo, NY 14240-4616
        Central Region(Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, West Virginia)Mail to:
        VA Regional Office
        PO Box 66830
        St. Louis, MO 63166-6830
        Western Region(Alaska, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Alabama, Mississippi, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, Guam, Philippines, APO/FPO AP)Mail to:
        VA Regional Office
        PO Box 8888
        Muskogee OK 74402-8888
        Southern Region(Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, APO/FPO AA)Mail to:
        VA Regional Office
        PO Box 100022
        Decatur, GA 30031-7022
        PRESIDENTIAL MEMORIAL CERTIFICATE REQUEST FORM
        Mail to: Presidential Memorial Certificates (41A1C)
        5109 Russell Road
        Quantico VA 22134-3903
       
        CLAIM FOR STANDARD GOVERNMENT HEADSTONE OR MARKER FOR PLACEMENT IN PRIVATE CEMETERY OR A STATE VETERANS CEMETERY
        Mail to:
      Memorial Programs Service (41B)
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        5109 Russell Road
        Quantico VA 22134-3903

    Camp Lejeune Groundwater Contamination

    • What is the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program?
      The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-154) was signed on August 6, 2012.   This law requires the VA to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune Family Members for eligible health care costs related to one or more of 15 specific illness or conditions. Both the Veteran and Family Member must meet specific criteria:
      • The Veteran must have served active duty for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.
      • The Family Member (spouse or dependent) either lived or were in utero during the same time period.
      • The Family Member must have been diagnosed with one or more illnesses or conditions in the list below:
      Bladder cancer Breast cancer Esophageal cancer Female infertility Hepatic steatosis
      Kidney cancer Leukemia Lung Cancer Miscarriage Multiple myeloma
      Myelodysplastic syndromes Neurobehavioral effects Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Renal toxicity Scleroderma
      The VA is not providing direct health care to family members.  Family members are being reimbursed for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to the 15 illnesses and conditions listed above.   Reimbursement is limited to payment for treatments after receiving payment from all other health plans. Family members are advised to keep receipts for health care expenses paid for one of the covered 15 illness or conditions on or after March 26, 2013.  This is the date the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program was funded. The law signed August 6, 2012 applies to health care only; it does not have provision for disability compensation. Evidence of dependency and Camp Lejeune residency  must be submitted to the VA.   Evidence can be shown through documents such as the Veteran’s military orders, base housing records, utility bill, pay stub, tax form, award citations that show dates of service at Camp Lejeune or other documents.  Proof of dependency can be shown through a marriage certificate, birth certificate, adoption papers, school records or other legal documents. Evidence of one of the included illnesses or conditions, the date of onset of the condition and verification of current treatment must be shown through medical documentation.  This information is captured on the VA Form 10-10068b Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report dated October 2014. Proof documentation should be submitted with the VA Form 10-10068, Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application.  While the VA will accept a claim form without documentation, you may experience a delay in processing. Applications are also accepted online here, although proof documentation must be either mailed or faxed to: Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Services Center P.O. Box 149200 Austin, TX  78714-9200 FAX:  512.460.5536 The VA Customer Service Center can be reached at 1.866.372.1144.

    Compensation Benefits

    • Mustard gas and veterans disability compensation

      Federal Regulation authorizes the VA to pay disability compensation to veterans exposed to mustard gas or Lewisite. Veterans from World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom have been exposed to these agents.

      Many veterans took a vow of silence for their participation in activities involving exposure to vesicant agents (blister-producing) or a mustard vesicant agent containing arsenic. Veterans who participated in mustard gas testing prior to 1968 were released from their vow of secrecy by the Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Perry on March 9, 1993. According to 38 CFR 3.316, veterans who experienced full-body exposure to nitrogen, sulfur mustard, or Lewisite during active duty who later developed certain health conditions may be eligible for disability compensation.  Participation in the testing of the agents may also be claimed as a stressor when filing for service-connection of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To claim a health condition not listed in the table below, medical and/or scientific evidence that shows the causal relationship between the health condition and exposure to nitrogen, sulfur mustard or Lewisite must be submitted with the claim.

      Full Body Exposure

      Health Condition

      Nitrogen or sulfur mustard gas

      ·       chronic conjuncitivis

      ·       keratitis

      ·       corneal opacities

      ·       scar formation at the exposure site

      ·       nasopharyngeal cancer

      ·       laryngeal cancer

      ·       lung cancer(excluding mesothelioma)

      ·       squamous cell carcinoma of the skin

      Nitrogen or sulfur mustard gas or Lewisite

      ·       Chronic forms of:

      ·       laryngitis

      ·       bronchitis

      ·       emphysema

      ·       asthma

      ·       chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

      Nitrogen mustard gas

      ·       acute non-lymphocytic leukemia

      Several locations have been confirmed where Army and Navy personnel are known to have been exposed.  Other activities have also been acknowledged by the VA and are listed in the “Note(s)” column below.

      Location

      Service

      Note(s)

      Bari, Italy

      Army, Navy

      Merchant seaman may also  have been exposed or killed

      Present during German air raid on the harbor in World War II

      Bushnell, Florida

      Army

       

      Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

      Army, Navy

       

      Charleston, South Carolina

      Navy

       

      Camp Sibert, Alabama

      Army

       

      Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois

      Navy

       

      Dugway Proving Ground, Utah

      Army

       

      Hart’s Island, New York

      Navy

       

      Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland

      Army

       

      Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland

      Navy

       

      Naval Research Lab, Washington D.C.

      Army

       

      Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia

      Navy

       

      Ondal, India

      Army

       

      Naval Research Lab, Washington D.C.

      Navy

       

      Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado

      Army

       

      USS Eagle Boat No. 58

      Navy

       

      San Jose Island, Panama Canal Zone

      Army

       

      Finschhafen, New Guinea

      Not specified

      Allied mustard agent testing

      Porton Down, England

      Not specified

      Allied mustard agent testing

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Field or Chamber testing

      Not specified

      Not specified

      WWI battlefield conditions

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Participation in the manufacturing, handling or destruction of the agents during active duty military service

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Operation Iraqi Freedom – service members who demolished or handled explosive ordinance

      Evidence

      VetsHQ recommends that each claim contain a personal statement (generally submitted on the VA Form 21-4138 – Statement in Support of Claim) that includes:
      • dates of exposure (month and year)
      • geographic location of the exposure
      • military unit of assignment at the time of exposure
      • type of exposure (full body, patch, etc.)
      If the VA determines the veteran is not listed in the Department of Defense/VA Chemical Biological Warfare Exposure System database, the veteran can expect to receive a VA request for additional information:
      • full organizational designation at the time of exposure (unit, company, division, etc.)
      • dates of exposure (month and year)
      • geographic location of the exposure(s)
      • type of activity the veteran was engaged in at the time of each exposure (basic training, test, experiment, etc.)

      References

      • 38 CFR 3.316 available at www.ecfr.gov
      • VA Claims Adjudication Manual, M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section F – Developing Claims for Service Connection (SC) for Disabilities Resulting From Exposure to Mustard Gas or Lewisite updated August 7, 2015.
    • Do I have a claim if I was exposed to ionizing radiation?
      The VA considers disability compensation claims for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons who later developed a radiogenic disease. The specific diseases are listed in federal regulation, 38 CFR 3.311(b)(2), and must be manifested within five years or more after exposure (unless indicated otherwise) (38 CFR 3.311(b)(5)):
      • All forms of leukemia except chronic lymphatic (lymphocytic) leukemia (manifested at any time after exposure);
      • Thyroid cancer;
      • Breast cancer;
      • Lung cancer;
      • Bone cancer (if manifested within 30 years of exposure);
      • Liver cancer;
      • Skin cancer;
      • Esophageal cancer;
      • Stomach cancer;
      • Colon cancer;
      • Pancreatic cancer;
      • Kidney cancer;
      • Urinary bladder cancer;
      • Salivary gland cancer;
      • Multiple myeloma;
      • Posterior subcapsular cataracts (if manifested within 6 months or more after exposure);
      • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease;
      • Ovarian cancer;
      • Parathyroid adenoma;
      • Tumors of the brain and central nervous system;
      • Cancer of the rectum;
      • Lymphomas other than Hodgkin's disease;
      • Prostate cancer; and
      • Any other cancer.
      Other diseases may be considered by the VA if the veteran cites or submits competent scientific or medical evidence that the claimed disease is a disease related to or caused by radioactivity. Under these circumstances, a claim for disability compensation must include the following evidence:
      • Medical evidence of a disease resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation
      A strong claim would also include:
      • History of exposure to known carcinogens
      • Post-service occupational history
      • Family history
      • Complete medical history of all medical care relating to the claimed disease
      • Names and addresses of all physician and facilities who made the diagnosis or provided treatment for the claim disease
      • All tissue block, slides or any other pathology samples, if available.
    • How can I build the best claim for disability compensation?
      If you have an injury, condition or disease that you believe was caused or aggravated by your military service, we can help you build a strong, viable claim for service connected benefits, including health benefits and tax-free compensation payments, which currently range from $1,598 to $39,304 annually (most recent VA statistics, 2013). These figures are dependent on eligibility, rating and statute. Choosing to take the time and effort to gather evidence and proof documents up front, and giving the VA all the information needed to make a decision on your claim is the best choice to make. A strong and complete claim helps to avoid delays for development (the VA asking for more information) or a denial (requiring further review or appeal).

      Here is how to get started

      Step 1: Know what it takes to have a viable claim. Review the required elements here. Click here
      • 1. A current diagnosis
      • 2. An event or stressor
      • 3. A link between the two
      Step 2: Understand how the VA considers whether your injury, condition, or disease is service-connected. Click here
      • 1. Direct connection
      • 2. Aggravated
      • 3. Secondary
      • 4. Presumptive
      • 5. Title 38 USC 1151 claims (malpractice)
      Step 3: Talk to your doctor(s) Click here for a Physician Medical Statement

      What you should know about medical evidence

      The VA uses a standard of proof in deciding compensation claims in which the veteran is afforded the benefit of the doubt. However, the claim must have competent, credible supporting evidence before the benefit of the doubt standard is applied. (38 USC 5107, 38 CFR 3.102, Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 49, 1990) It is important for your evidence to be competent and credible.  The VA evaluates your medical evidence by looking at the following elements per M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iv, Chapter 5, Section 5(c):
      • 1. The basis for the physician’s opinion (such as through observation, testing, reports)
      • 2. The physician’s knowledge of your medical and relevant personal history
      • 3. How long you have been treated by the physician
      • 4. Why you saw the physician (treatment, substantiation of a medical disability claim)
      • 5. The physician’s expertise and experience
      • 6. How specific the physician is in his/her medical opinion
      • 7. How certain the physician is in his/her medical opinion
      Final Step: Assemble your claim packet with the proper forms, mandatory and recommended proof documents. You will know that your claim packet is the best that it can be when you can say with confidence that your claim packet accurately reflects your story — when and where you served, what happened, the resulting symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and a clear connection between those elements.
    • Is sleep apnea considered a disability by the VA?
      The VA recognizes sleep apnea as a disabling condition, subject to sleep study confirmation or receipt of medical evidence disclosing a diagnosis from a competent private medical provider or specialist for purposes of rating for compensation (sleep apnea is not a presumptive condition, which means the responsibility lies with the veteran to connection the condition to the veteran’s military service). Pursuant to 38 CFR 4.97, current ratings are:
      • 100 percent: chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale; or, requires tracheostomy
      • 50 percent: requires use of breathing assistance device such as continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine
      • 30 percent: persistent daytime hypersomnolence
      • 0 percent: asymptomatic, but with documented sleep disorder breathing
      Sleep disturbances are recognized as a qualifying chronic disability (pursuant to 38 CFR 3.317) resulting from an undiagnosed illness or a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness.  In a change to the VA compensation adjudication manual (M21-1) dated November 30, 2015, sleep apnea cannot be presumptively service-connected under the authority of 38 CFR 3.317 because it is a diagnosable condition.  When claimed as a disability for compensation purposes, sleep apnea will be considered on a non-presumptive basis.  This means that a veteran who served in Southwest Asia and claims service-connected respiratory system or sleep disturbance disability should be scheduled for an examination and a medical nexus opinion requested. Once again, a diagnosis from a competent private medical provider or specialist stating the veteran’s condition is “more likely than not” connected to the veteran’s service will be added to the overall VA claim record and can help make the service connection. Veterans should take the Sleep Apnea Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) form (found here) to their private medical provider or specialist to complete. Also, sleep apnea is associated with a higher prevalence of psychiatric comorbid conditions (meaning the presence of one or more additional disorders or diseases co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder) in Veterans Health Administration beneficiaries. This association suggests that patients with psychiatric disorders and coincident symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggesting sleep-disordered breathing should be evaluated for sleep apnea. While the VA's National Center for PTSD has not posted current evidence to link PTSD and sleep apnea, other studies and articles have done so. The submission or these studies and articles would not suffice as “complete” evidence to support a disability compensation claim, but they can be used as part of the evidence as a whole. Veterans who have had their claims linking PTSD and sleep apnea denied by the VA have won their cases on appeal with sleep apnea as secondary to service-connected PTSD. The decisions from two of these appeals can be found here (http://www.va.gov/vetapp01/files01/0102100.txt) and here (http://www.va.gov/vetapp13/Files2/1316035.txt)
    • Are there special benefits for Cold War veterans?
      There are some special benefits for Cold War veterans. The Cold War Certificate Program is managed exclusively by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, the official executive agency for the program. Cold War Certificates are available for eligible service-members, veterans, and civilians who faithfully served the United States during the Cold War Era, September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. The certificates were authorized by the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act. In Section 1084 of the legislation, Congress noted that The Cold War was a global military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, “potentially the most dangerous military confrontation in the history of mankind that ended without a direct superpower military conflict.” The Cold War is not included in the list of conflicts, operations or combat zones that convey certain VA benefits to war-time eligibility, including veterans’ preference for hiring or tax benefits by the Internal Revenue Service. While your DD214 date of entry and date of separation will show that you served during The Cold War era, we can find no evidence that the Department of Defense has issued corrections to separation documents, including the DD214, in order to add service during the Cold War era. There has been federal legislation for a Cold War service medal, including legislation introduced in June in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 4807, Cold War Service Medal Act of 2014). That legislation is currently sitting in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel. There are also commemorative medals sold by private vendors, but they cannot be worn on military uniforms, according to the Department of Defense. Even without serving during a designated war or conflict, veterans can file compensation claims with the VA on a fact basis by proving a service-connection between an injury, illness, or disease and their military service.
    • Filing for Disability Compensation
      In any filing for disability compensation, the VA is required to tell the veteran or claimant how to prove a claim by (1) what information is necessary and (2) assist in obtaining that information (duty to assist)1. Part of the “duty to assist” is to provide a medical examination or medical opinion, if necessary, to make a decision on a claim for service connection.
          Four elements are needed to trigger the VA’s duty for the examination or opinion.
      Element One:
        Competent evidence of a current disability or persistent or recurrent symptoms of a disability.

      Example: Over the last year, the veteran’s right knee has had increasingly severe pain when standing up.  As a result of the pain, the veteran walks with a limp and is unable to walk more than a few yards before stopping to rest.

      Element Two:
         Evidence establishing that an event, injury, or disease occurred in service or establishing certain diseases manifesting during an applicable presumptive period for which the claimant qualifies.

      Example: While in service, the veteran twisted his right knee during physical training exercises with his unit.  He went to sick call at the time of the incident, and was seen by a medical provider the same day.  Service medical records show the incident, medical visit and treatment at that time.

      Element Three:
        An indication that the disability or persistent or recurrent symptoms of a disability may be associated with the veteran’s service or with another service-connected disability, but;

      Example: Though it has been three years since he left the service, the veteran has continued to experience pain in his right knee, and has been unable to participate in favorite activities such as half marathons or competitive 5K runs.  The pain has gotten progressively worse.

      Element Four:
        Insufficient competent medical evidence on file for the VA to make a decision on the claim.

      Example: A private medical provider has examined the knee and provided treatment options to the Veteran. There is some concern about loss of function. The Veteran has not pursued further testing or intervention due to the cost.

        In this case, sufficient evidence is provided for three elements to trigger the VA’s duty to assist the veteran by obtaining a medical examination or opinion.
          In an appeals case, a veteran was seeking a service connection between cancer and exposure during service to herbicides and/or pesticides.  In this case, the medical opinions addressing the question of medical nexus were determined to not be sufficiently definitive, and the case was sent back to the VA for a VA medical examination as part of the due process.
      Examples of medical opinions that did not show a sufficient degree of certainty:
        (1) “it is as likely as not” that the veteran's prostate cancer is associated with his herbicide/pesticide exposure;
        (2) it "is not inconceivable" that the veteran's greatest risk factor for developing prostate cancer "may have been" his extensive exposure to various defoliating chemicals and herbicides;
        (3) “the veteran was apparently exposed” to herbicides in [location] and that although “it cannot be said for certain” that herbicide exposure causes cancer, it seems that the veteran meets the established criteria for the nexus between his exposure and his cancer;
        (4) “it appears” that the veteran received significant chemical exposure to herbicides and pesticides during military service, and… that the veteran's cancer has been contributed to if not caused by his exposure to hazardous chemicals.
          Sometimes the VA determines that additional information is needed to adjudicate the claim, and that the information must be provided by the veteran or claimant.  In that instance, the veteran or claimant must submit information or evidence within one year from the date of notice from the VA that such information is necessary.
      Citations
        1. Public Law 106-475, Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000
        2. 38USC5103A(d) — Medical Examinations for Compensation Claims
        3. 38USC5103 — Notice to Claimants of Required Information and Evidence
        4. Citation Nr: 0640092, Decided 12/29/2006, Docket No. 00-20 667, On appeal from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO) in Houston, Texas.  Jacqueline E. Monroe, Veterans Law Judge, Board of Veterans’ Appeals
          5. Abrams, R.B., George, L.J., Stichman, Barton F. (Eds.). (2013).
      Veterans Benefits Manual
        . Charlottesville, VA:  LexisNexis
    • Where Do I Send Compensation Claims and Claim-Related Documents?
      The Veteran Benefits Administration has started a program for Centralized Mail Processing (CMP) for compensation claims and claim-related documents. Veterans who have additional evidence to support their claim should mail or fax the evidence to the CMP location. Please be sure to put your name and claim number or Social Security Number on every page of documentation you mail or fax to the VA, and keep a copy for your records. Where to send your written correspondence (current as of May 24, 2016) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Claims Intake Center
        PO Box 4444
        Janesville, WI 53547-4444
      or FAX to: Toll-Free 844-531-7818 & 248-524-4260 (Utilized for Foreign Claimants)
    • Will the VA Pay Retroactive Compensation and Pension Benefits for Claims Involving Same-Sex Couples?
      For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim, if the claim was pending as of September 4, 2013 (the date of the President's directive), the effective date will be assigned as if the laws barring VA's recognition of same-sex marriage had never been in effect. In some instances, this could mean an effective date as early as the date of marriage or as early as when VA received the claim.
         
      For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim that was not pending as of September 4, 2013, provided that the claimant met all of the eligibility requirements for the benefit by that date, and the claim was received within the following year,
         
        VA generally will assign an effective date of September 4, 2013.
      For claims received more than one year after September 4, 2013, if the claimant met all eligibility requirements on that date, VA may assign an effective date up to one year prior to the date of the claim.
         
        This provides a grace period for persons who were previously ineligible for benefits under the law to learn of the President's directive, and to submit claims and applications based on that change.
           
          Not all VA benefits are subject to the provisions of 38 USC 103(c), such as life insurance proceeds paid to a designated beneficiary, dependent education benefits for Department of Defense-approved transfers of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance or certain burial benefits. However, all eligibility requirements must be met for these and any other benefits or services offered by the VA.

    Disability Compensation

    • Mustard gas and veterans disability compensation

      Federal Regulation authorizes the VA to pay disability compensation to veterans exposed to mustard gas or Lewisite. Veterans from World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom have been exposed to these agents.

      Many veterans took a vow of silence for their participation in activities involving exposure to vesicant agents (blister-producing) or a mustard vesicant agent containing arsenic. Veterans who participated in mustard gas testing prior to 1968 were released from their vow of secrecy by the Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Perry on March 9, 1993. According to 38 CFR 3.316, veterans who experienced full-body exposure to nitrogen, sulfur mustard, or Lewisite during active duty who later developed certain health conditions may be eligible for disability compensation.  Participation in the testing of the agents may also be claimed as a stressor when filing for service-connection of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To claim a health condition not listed in the table below, medical and/or scientific evidence that shows the causal relationship between the health condition and exposure to nitrogen, sulfur mustard or Lewisite must be submitted with the claim.

      Full Body Exposure

      Health Condition

      Nitrogen or sulfur mustard gas

      ·       chronic conjuncitivis

      ·       keratitis

      ·       corneal opacities

      ·       scar formation at the exposure site

      ·       nasopharyngeal cancer

      ·       laryngeal cancer

      ·       lung cancer(excluding mesothelioma)

      ·       squamous cell carcinoma of the skin

      Nitrogen or sulfur mustard gas or Lewisite

      ·       Chronic forms of:

      ·       laryngitis

      ·       bronchitis

      ·       emphysema

      ·       asthma

      ·       chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

      Nitrogen mustard gas

      ·       acute non-lymphocytic leukemia

      Several locations have been confirmed where Army and Navy personnel are known to have been exposed.  Other activities have also been acknowledged by the VA and are listed in the “Note(s)” column below.

      Location

      Service

      Note(s)

      Bari, Italy

      Army, Navy

      Merchant seaman may also  have been exposed or killed

      Present during German air raid on the harbor in World War II

      Bushnell, Florida

      Army

       

      Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

      Army, Navy

       

      Charleston, South Carolina

      Navy

       

      Camp Sibert, Alabama

      Army

       

      Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois

      Navy

       

      Dugway Proving Ground, Utah

      Army

       

      Hart’s Island, New York

      Navy

       

      Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland

      Army

       

      Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland

      Navy

       

      Naval Research Lab, Washington D.C.

      Army

       

      Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia

      Navy

       

      Ondal, India

      Army

       

      Naval Research Lab, Washington D.C.

      Navy

       

      Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado

      Army

       

      USS Eagle Boat No. 58

      Navy

       

      San Jose Island, Panama Canal Zone

      Army

       

      Finschhafen, New Guinea

      Not specified

      Allied mustard agent testing

      Porton Down, England

      Not specified

      Allied mustard agent testing

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Field or Chamber testing

      Not specified

      Not specified

      WWI battlefield conditions

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Participation in the manufacturing, handling or destruction of the agents during active duty military service

      Not specified

      Not specified

      Operation Iraqi Freedom – service members who demolished or handled explosive ordinance

      Evidence

      VetsHQ recommends that each claim contain a personal statement (generally submitted on the VA Form 21-4138 – Statement in Support of Claim) that includes:
      • dates of exposure (month and year)
      • geographic location of the exposure
      • military unit of assignment at the time of exposure
      • type of exposure (full body, patch, etc.)
      If the VA determines the veteran is not listed in the Department of Defense/VA Chemical Biological Warfare Exposure System database, the veteran can expect to receive a VA request for additional information:
      • full organizational designation at the time of exposure (unit, company, division, etc.)
      • dates of exposure (month and year)
      • geographic location of the exposure(s)
      • type of activity the veteran was engaged in at the time of each exposure (basic training, test, experiment, etc.)

      References

      • 38 CFR 3.316 available at www.ecfr.gov
      • VA Claims Adjudication Manual, M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section F – Developing Claims for Service Connection (SC) for Disabilities Resulting From Exposure to Mustard Gas or Lewisite updated August 7, 2015.
    • Do I have a claim if I was exposed to ionizing radiation?
      The VA considers disability compensation claims for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons who later developed a radiogenic disease. The specific diseases are listed in federal regulation, 38 CFR 3.311(b)(2), and must be manifested within five years or more after exposure (unless indicated otherwise) (38 CFR 3.311(b)(5)):
      • All forms of leukemia except chronic lymphatic (lymphocytic) leukemia (manifested at any time after exposure);
      • Thyroid cancer;
      • Breast cancer;
      • Lung cancer;
      • Bone cancer (if manifested within 30 years of exposure);
      • Liver cancer;
      • Skin cancer;
      • Esophageal cancer;
      • Stomach cancer;
      • Colon cancer;
      • Pancreatic cancer;
      • Kidney cancer;
      • Urinary bladder cancer;
      • Salivary gland cancer;
      • Multiple myeloma;
      • Posterior subcapsular cataracts (if manifested within 6 months or more after exposure);
      • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease;
      • Ovarian cancer;
      • Parathyroid adenoma;
      • Tumors of the brain and central nervous system;
      • Cancer of the rectum;
      • Lymphomas other than Hodgkin's disease;
      • Prostate cancer; and
      • Any other cancer.
      Other diseases may be considered by the VA if the veteran cites or submits competent scientific or medical evidence that the claimed disease is a disease related to or caused by radioactivity. Under these circumstances, a claim for disability compensation must include the following evidence:
      • Medical evidence of a disease resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation
      A strong claim would also include:
      • History of exposure to known carcinogens
      • Post-service occupational history
      • Family history
      • Complete medical history of all medical care relating to the claimed disease
      • Names and addresses of all physician and facilities who made the diagnosis or provided treatment for the claim disease
      • All tissue block, slides or any other pathology samples, if available.
    • How can I build the best claim for disability compensation?
      If you have an injury, condition or disease that you believe was caused or aggravated by your military service, we can help you build a strong, viable claim for service connected benefits, including health benefits and tax-free compensation payments, which currently range from $1,598 to $39,304 annually (most recent VA statistics, 2013). These figures are dependent on eligibility, rating and statute. Choosing to take the time and effort to gather evidence and proof documents up front, and giving the VA all the information needed to make a decision on your claim is the best choice to make. A strong and complete claim helps to avoid delays for development (the VA asking for more information) or a denial (requiring further review or appeal).

      Here is how to get started

      Step 1: Know what it takes to have a viable claim. Review the required elements here. Click here
      • 1. A current diagnosis
      • 2. An event or stressor
      • 3. A link between the two
      Step 2: Understand how the VA considers whether your injury, condition, or disease is service-connected. Click here
      • 1. Direct connection
      • 2. Aggravated
      • 3. Secondary
      • 4. Presumptive
      • 5. Title 38 USC 1151 claims (malpractice)
      Step 3: Talk to your doctor(s) Click here for a Physician Medical Statement

      What you should know about medical evidence

      The VA uses a standard of proof in deciding compensation claims in which the veteran is afforded the benefit of the doubt. However, the claim must have competent, credible supporting evidence before the benefit of the doubt standard is applied. (38 USC 5107, 38 CFR 3.102, Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 49, 1990) It is important for your evidence to be competent and credible.  The VA evaluates your medical evidence by looking at the following elements per M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iv, Chapter 5, Section 5(c):
      • 1. The basis for the physician’s opinion (such as through observation, testing, reports)
      • 2. The physician’s knowledge of your medical and relevant personal history
      • 3. How long you have been treated by the physician
      • 4. Why you saw the physician (treatment, substantiation of a medical disability claim)
      • 5. The physician’s expertise and experience
      • 6. How specific the physician is in his/her medical opinion
      • 7. How certain the physician is in his/her medical opinion
      Final Step: Assemble your claim packet with the proper forms, mandatory and recommended proof documents. You will know that your claim packet is the best that it can be when you can say with confidence that your claim packet accurately reflects your story — when and where you served, what happened, the resulting symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and a clear connection between those elements.
    • Is sleep apnea considered a disability by the VA?
      The VA recognizes sleep apnea as a disabling condition, subject to sleep study confirmation or receipt of medical evidence disclosing a diagnosis from a competent private medical provider or specialist for purposes of rating for compensation (sleep apnea is not a presumptive condition, which means the responsibility lies with the veteran to connection the condition to the veteran’s military service). Pursuant to 38 CFR 4.97, current ratings are:
      • 100 percent: chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale; or, requires tracheostomy
      • 50 percent: requires use of breathing assistance device such as continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine
      • 30 percent: persistent daytime hypersomnolence
      • 0 percent: asymptomatic, but with documented sleep disorder breathing
      Sleep disturbances are recognized as a qualifying chronic disability (pursuant to 38 CFR 3.317) resulting from an undiagnosed illness or a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness.  In a change to the VA compensation adjudication manual (M21-1) dated November 30, 2015, sleep apnea cannot be presumptively service-connected under the authority of 38 CFR 3.317 because it is a diagnosable condition.  When claimed as a disability for compensation purposes, sleep apnea will be considered on a non-presumptive basis.  This means that a veteran who served in Southwest Asia and claims service-connected respiratory system or sleep disturbance disability should be scheduled for an examination and a medical nexus opinion requested. Once again, a diagnosis from a competent private medical provider or specialist stating the veteran’s condition is “more likely than not” connected to the veteran’s service will be added to the overall VA claim record and can help make the service connection. Veterans should take the Sleep Apnea Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) form (found here) to their private medical provider or specialist to complete. Also, sleep apnea is associated with a higher prevalence of psychiatric comorbid conditions (meaning the presence of one or more additional disorders or diseases co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder) in Veterans Health Administration beneficiaries. This association suggests that patients with psychiatric disorders and coincident symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggesting sleep-disordered breathing should be evaluated for sleep apnea. While the VA's National Center for PTSD has not posted current evidence to link PTSD and sleep apnea, other studies and articles have done so. The submission or these studies and articles would not suffice as “complete” evidence to support a disability compensation claim, but they can be used as part of the evidence as a whole. Veterans who have had their claims linking PTSD and sleep apnea denied by the VA have won their cases on appeal with sleep apnea as secondary to service-connected PTSD. The decisions from two of these appeals can be found here (http://www.va.gov/vetapp01/files01/0102100.txt) and here (http://www.va.gov/vetapp13/Files2/1316035.txt)
    • Filing for Disability Compensation
      In any filing for disability compensation, the VA is required to tell the veteran or claimant how to prove a claim by (1) what information is necessary and (2) assist in obtaining that information (duty to assist)1. Part of the “duty to assist” is to provide a medical examination or medical opinion, if necessary, to make a decision on a claim for service connection.
          Four elements are needed to trigger the VA’s duty for the examination or opinion.
      Element One:
        Competent evidence of a current disability or persistent or recurrent symptoms of a disability.

      Example: Over the last year, the veteran’s right knee has had increasingly severe pain when standing up.  As a result of the pain, the veteran walks with a limp and is unable to walk more than a few yards before stopping to rest.

      Element Two:
         Evidence establishing that an event, injury, or disease occurred in service or establishing certain diseases manifesting during an applicable presumptive period for which the claimant qualifies.

      Example: While in service, the veteran twisted his right knee during physical training exercises with his unit.  He went to sick call at the time of the incident, and was seen by a medical provider the same day.  Service medical records show the incident, medical visit and treatment at that time.

      Element Three:
        An indication that the disability or persistent or recurrent symptoms of a disability may be associated with the veteran’s service or with another service-connected disability, but;

      Example: Though it has been three years since he left the service, the veteran has continued to experience pain in his right knee, and has been unable to participate in favorite activities such as half marathons or competitive 5K runs.  The pain has gotten progressively worse.

      Element Four:
        Insufficient competent medical evidence on file for the VA to make a decision on the claim.

      Example: A private medical provider has examined the knee and provided treatment options to the Veteran. There is some concern about loss of function. The Veteran has not pursued further testing or intervention due to the cost.

        In this case, sufficient evidence is provided for three elements to trigger the VA’s duty to assist the veteran by obtaining a medical examination or opinion.
          In an appeals case, a veteran was seeking a service connection between cancer and exposure during service to herbicides and/or pesticides.  In this case, the medical opinions addressing the question of medical nexus were determined to not be sufficiently definitive, and the case was sent back to the VA for a VA medical examination as part of the due process.
      Examples of medical opinions that did not show a sufficient degree of certainty:
        (1) “it is as likely as not” that the veteran's prostate cancer is associated with his herbicide/pesticide exposure;
        (2) it "is not inconceivable" that the veteran's greatest risk factor for developing prostate cancer "may have been" his extensive exposure to various defoliating chemicals and herbicides;
        (3) “the veteran was apparently exposed” to herbicides in [location] and that although “it cannot be said for certain” that herbicide exposure causes cancer, it seems that the veteran meets the established criteria for the nexus between his exposure and his cancer;
        (4) “it appears” that the veteran received significant chemical exposure to herbicides and pesticides during military service, and… that the veteran's cancer has been contributed to if not caused by his exposure to hazardous chemicals.
          Sometimes the VA determines that additional information is needed to adjudicate the claim, and that the information must be provided by the veteran or claimant.  In that instance, the veteran or claimant must submit information or evidence within one year from the date of notice from the VA that such information is necessary.
      Citations
        1. Public Law 106-475, Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000
        2. 38USC5103A(d) — Medical Examinations for Compensation Claims
        3. 38USC5103 — Notice to Claimants of Required Information and Evidence
        4. Citation Nr: 0640092, Decided 12/29/2006, Docket No. 00-20 667, On appeal from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO) in Houston, Texas.  Jacqueline E. Monroe, Veterans Law Judge, Board of Veterans’ Appeals
          5. Abrams, R.B., George, L.J., Stichman, Barton F. (Eds.). (2013).
      Veterans Benefits Manual
        . Charlottesville, VA:  LexisNexis
    • Where Do I Send Compensation Claims and Claim-Related Documents?
      The Veteran Benefits Administration has started a program for Centralized Mail Processing (CMP) for compensation claims and claim-related documents. Veterans who have additional evidence to support their claim should mail or fax the evidence to the CMP location. Please be sure to put your name and claim number or Social Security Number on every page of documentation you mail or fax to the VA, and keep a copy for your records. Where to send your written correspondence (current as of May 24, 2016) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Claims Intake Center
        PO Box 4444
        Janesville, WI 53547-4444
      or FAX to: Toll-Free 844-531-7818 & 248-524-4260 (Utilized for Foreign Claimants)
    • What Is A Service Connection?
      A service connection is established not by what caused the condition, injury or disease, but by when the condition, injury or disease appears. The service connection is established by the appearance of a combination of signs and symptoms sufficient to identify the condition during, or within a specified period following, a veteran's active military service.
    • How Does the VA Define A Substantially Complete Application?
      Upon receipt of an application for benefits, the VA will determine if it is substantially complete. A substantially complete application must include the following:
      • claimant’s name and relationship to the Veteran, if applicable;
      • sufficient service information for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to verify the Veteran’s service, if applicable;
      • the benefit claimed;
      • disability or disabilities on which the claim for benefits is based (Exposure to certain agents such as Agent Orange or anthrax, with no corresponding disability or symptomatology, is not a disability for VA purposes);
      • signature of the claimant or another legally authorized individual, and;
      • statement of income for nonservice-connected (NSC) disability pension, death pension or Parents' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), if claimed.
      Make a note: A faxed or photocopied signature is acceptable for VA claims purposes. The successful submission of an electronic application satisfies the signature requirement.

    Education

    • What Is the EFT Requirement for Education Benefits?
      In June 2014, VA Form 22-1990 Application for VA Education Benefits was updated with the following information: “The Department of Treasury requires all Federal benefit payments be made by electronic funds transfer (EFT), also called direct deposit (Direct Deposit is not available for Chapter 32 recipients1.) Please attach a voided personal check or deposit slip or provide the information requested below to enroll in direct deposit.  If you do not have a bank account, you must receive your payment through Direct Express Debit MasterCard. To request a Direct Express Debit MasterCard you must apply at www.usdirectexpress.com or by telephone at 1-800-333-1795. If you elect not to enroll, you must contact representatives handling waiver requests for the Department of Treasury at 1-888-224-2950. They will address any questions or concerns you may have and encourage your participation in EFT.”1
            Chapter 32 recipients are those who are receiving education benefits under the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).

    General Questions

    • Are there any reasons a veteran would not receive benefits?
      There are several issues that would bar a veteran from receiving federal veterans benefits. They are:
      • Conscientious objector
      • General court martial
      • Deserter
      • Alien during a period of hostilities
      • Officer who resigned for the good of the service
      • Absence without official leave (AWOL) for at least 180 continuous days
      • Acceptance of an "undesirable" to avoid General Court Martial
      • Mutiny or spying
      • Conviction or felony
      • Willful or persistent misconduct
      • Homosexual acts involving aggravation circumstances or other factors affecting duty or accompanied by assault or coercion, child molestation, homosexual prostitution, acts taking place between disparate ranks, grade, status when taking advantage of rank.
    • Are there special benefits for Cold War veterans?
      There are some special benefits for Cold War veterans. The Cold War Certificate Program is managed exclusively by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, the official executive agency for the program. Cold War Certificates are available for eligible service-members, veterans, and civilians who faithfully served the United States during the Cold War Era, September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. The certificates were authorized by the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act. In Section 1084 of the legislation, Congress noted that The Cold War was a global military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, “potentially the most dangerous military confrontation in the history of mankind that ended without a direct superpower military conflict.” The Cold War is not included in the list of conflicts, operations or combat zones that convey certain VA benefits to war-time eligibility, including veterans’ preference for hiring or tax benefits by the Internal Revenue Service. While your DD214 date of entry and date of separation will show that you served during The Cold War era, we can find no evidence that the Department of Defense has issued corrections to separation documents, including the DD214, in order to add service during the Cold War era. There has been federal legislation for a Cold War service medal, including legislation introduced in June in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 4807, Cold War Service Medal Act of 2014). That legislation is currently sitting in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel. There are also commemorative medals sold by private vendors, but they cannot be worn on military uniforms, according to the Department of Defense. Even without serving during a designated war or conflict, veterans can file compensation claims with the VA on a fact basis by proving a service-connection between an injury, illness, or disease and their military service.

    Health Care

    • What are VA priority groups?
      During health care enrollment, a veteran is assigned to VA priority groups. The VA uses priority groups to balance demand for VA health care with available resources. Changes in available resources may reduce the number of priority groups VA can enroll. If this occurs, VA will publicize the changes and notify affected enrollees. A description of priority groups follows: Group 1: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or more and/or Veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions. Group 2: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 30 or 40 percent. Group 3:
      • Veterans who are former POWs.
      • Veterans awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
      • Veterans awarded the Medal of Honor.
      • Veterans whose discharge was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
      • Veterans with VA service-connected disabilities rated 10 percent or 20 percent.
      • Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, "benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation."
      Group 4:
      • Veterans receiving increased compensation or pension based on their need for regular aid and attendance or by reason of being permanently housebound.
      • Veterans determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled.
      Group 5:
      • Non-service-connected Veterans and noncompensable service-connected Veterans rated 0 percent, whose annual income and/ or net worth are not greater than the VA financial thresholds. Veterans receiving VA Pension benefits.
      • Veterans eligible for Medicaid benefits.
      Group 6:
      • Compensable 0 percent service-connected veterans.
      • Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
      • Project 112/SHAD participants.
      • Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
      • Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations from Aug. 2, 1990, through Nov. 11, 1998.
      • Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after Nov.11, 1998, as follows:
        • Veterans discharged from active duty on or after Jan. 28, 2003, for five years post discharge;
        • Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for not fewer than 30 days beginning Jan. 1, 1957 and ending Dec. 31, 1987.
      Group 7:
      • Veterans with incomes below the geographic means test income thresholds and who agree to pay the applicable copayment.
      Group 8:
      • Veterans with gross household incomes above the VA national income threshold and the geographically-adjusted income threshold for their resident location and who agrees to pay copayments. Veterans eligible for enrollment: Noncompensable 0-percent service-connected and:
      • Subpriority a: Enrolled as of Jan. 16, 2003, and who have remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status.
      • Subpriority b: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10 percent or less
      • Veterans eligible for enrollment: Nonservice-connected and Subpriority c: Enrolled as of Jan. 16, 2003, and who remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status
      • Subpriority d: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10 percent or less
      • Veterans NOT eligible for enrollment: Veterans not meeting the criteria above: Subpriority e: Noncompensable 0 percent service-connected Subpriority f: Nonservice-connected
      VA's current income thresholds can be found here.
    • What is the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program?
      The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-154) was signed on August 6, 2012.   This law requires the VA to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune Family Members for eligible health care costs related to one or more of 15 specific illness or conditions. Both the Veteran and Family Member must meet specific criteria:
      • The Veteran must have served active duty for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.
      • The Family Member (spouse or dependent) either lived or were in utero during the same time period.
      • The Family Member must have been diagnosed with one or more illnesses or conditions in the list below:
      Bladder cancer Breast cancer Esophageal cancer Female infertility Hepatic steatosis
      Kidney cancer Leukemia Lung Cancer Miscarriage Multiple myeloma
      Myelodysplastic syndromes Neurobehavioral effects Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Renal toxicity Scleroderma
      The VA is not providing direct health care to family members.  Family members are being reimbursed for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to the 15 illnesses and conditions listed above.   Reimbursement is limited to payment for treatments after receiving payment from all other health plans. Family members are advised to keep receipts for health care expenses paid for one of the covered 15 illness or conditions on or after March 26, 2013.  This is the date the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program was funded. The law signed August 6, 2012 applies to health care only; it does not have provision for disability compensation. Evidence of dependency and Camp Lejeune residency  must be submitted to the VA.   Evidence can be shown through documents such as the Veteran’s military orders, base housing records, utility bill, pay stub, tax form, award citations that show dates of service at Camp Lejeune or other documents.  Proof of dependency can be shown through a marriage certificate, birth certificate, adoption papers, school records or other legal documents. Evidence of one of the included illnesses or conditions, the date of onset of the condition and verification of current treatment must be shown through medical documentation.  This information is captured on the VA Form 10-10068b Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report dated October 2014. Proof documentation should be submitted with the VA Form 10-10068, Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application.  While the VA will accept a claim form without documentation, you may experience a delay in processing. Applications are also accepted online here, although proof documentation must be either mailed or faxed to: Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Services Center P.O. Box 149200 Austin, TX  78714-9200 FAX:  512.460.5536 The VA Customer Service Center can be reached at 1.866.372.1144.
    • Where Do I Submit My Application for VA Health Benefits?
      APPLICATION FOR HEALTH BENEFITS
        Mail to: Health Eligibility Center
        2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200
        Atlanta GA 30329
    • Where Do I Submit My Application for VA Health Benefits?
      APPLICATION FOR HEALTH BENEFITS
        Mail to: Health Eligibility Center
        2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200
        Atlanta GA 30329
    • Where Do I Submit Claims for Payment to the Foreign Medical Program?
      CLAIMS FOR PAYMENT TO THE FOREIGN MEDICAL PROGRAM
        Mail to: VA Health Administration Center
        Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
        PO Box 65021
        Denver CO 80206-9021
    • Benefit Requirements For Veterans Who Are Invalid Or Home-Bound
      First, the veteran must meet the basic service requirement. Generally, for example, if the veteran served 90 days in the Korean conflict (between June 27, 1950 and January 31, 1955), he or she would meet the wartime service requirement for benefits. One possible benefit for your situation is a pension, if the veteran meets additional eligibility criterion of net worth and disability. If the veteran is found eligible for a pension, then it is possible to get an additional allowance for being house-bound. If the veteran is enrolled in VA health care, additional limited benefits such as home care, prescriptions, durable medical equipment may also be possible. Members of VetsHQ — veterans or their family members — can enter in the veteran's military service and personal information and find out quickly which benefits they are likely eligible to receive.
    • What Is the Foreign Medical Program?
      The Foreign Medical Program is a VA health care benefits program for U.S. veterans who:
      • reside or travel abroad (with the exception of health care services received in the Phillippines); and,
      • have VA-rated, service-connected disabilities.
      The VA may authorize foreign medical services for veterans only for a VA-rated, service-connected disability or for a condition that is associated with and aggravated by a VA-rated, service-connected disability.
    • What are the eligibility requirements for the VA health care system?
      Combat Veterans discharged or released from active service on or after January 28, 2003 are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for 5 years from the date of the most recent discharge or release date from active duty military service.

    Home Loans

    • Where Do I Submit My Application for VA Home Loans?
      Atlanta Regional Loan Center (For residents of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        PO Box 100023
        Decatur, GA 30031-7023

      Cleveland Regional Loan Center (For residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        1240 East Ninth Street
        Cleveland, OH 44199

      Denver Regional Loan Center (For residents of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        Box 25126
        Denver, CO 80225

      Honolulu Regional Loan Center (For residents of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        Loan Guaranty Division (26)
        459 Patterson Road
        Honolulu, HI 96819

      Houston Regional Loan Center (For residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        6900 Almeda Road
        Houston, TX 77030-4200

      Phoenix Regional Loan Center (For residents of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        3333 N. Central Avenue
        Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402

      Roanoke Regional Loan Center (For residents of District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia)
        Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        116 N. Jefferson Street
        Roanoke, VA 24016

      St. Paul Regional Loan Center (For residents of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, No. Dakota, So. Dakota, Wisconsin) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        1 Federal Drive, Ft. Snelling
        St. Paul, MN 55111-4050

      St. Petersburg Regional Loan Center (For residents of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands) Mail to:
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        VA Regional Loan Center
        PO Box 1437
        St. Petersburg, FL 33731
    • Where Do I Submit My Application for VA Home Loans?
      Atlanta Regional Loan Center (For residents of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center PO Box 100023 Decatur, GA 30031-7023
      Cleveland Regional Loan Center (For residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center 1240 East Ninth Street Cleveland, OH 44199
      Denver Regional Loan Center (For residents of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center Box 25126 Denver, CO 80225
      Honolulu Regional Loan Center (For residents of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center Loan Guaranty Division (26) 459 Patterson Road Honolulu, HI 96819
      Houston Regional Loan Center (For residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center 6900 Almeda Road Houston, TX 77030-4200
      Phoenix Regional Loan Center (For residents of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center 3333 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402
      Roanoke Regional Loan Center (For residents of District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center 116 N. Jefferson Street Roanoke, VA 24016
      St. Paul Regional Loan Center (For residents of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, No. Dakota, So. Dakota, Wisconsin) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center 1 Federal Drive, Ft. Snelling St. Paul, MN 55111-4050
      St. Petersburg Regional Loan Center (For residents of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands) Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs VA Regional Loan Center PO Box 1437 St. Petersburg, FL 33731
    • Six-Year Requirement for Reserve Members
      Members of the Reserve are eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan if they meet the eligibility requirements. 6-Year Requirement: A veteran who completes a total of 6 years as a member of the Selected Reserve (the veteran doesn't need to be ordered to active duty) is eligible if he or she either:
      • Received an honorable discharge;
      • Was placed on the retired list;
      • Was transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service in the Selected Reserve characterized as honorable; or
      • Continues to serve in the Selected Reserve.
      The six years of service do not have to be continuous or in the same Reserve or National Guard unit. However, active duty regular military service cannot be combined with Reserve service to reach the 6-year minimum.
      Example Bill served 12 months of a 2-year enlistment in the Army.  He did not meet the 2-Year Requirement for eligibility and his separation was not due to any authorized exceptions.  He also served 5 years in the Selected Reserve.  Bill is not eligible.  He must serve all 6 years in the Selected Reserve.
      Example A member of the Selected Reserve mobilized during the Persian Gulf War served less than 90 days on active duty, but continues as a Reserve member.  She will be eligible once the total of her Persian Gulf service plus additional time spent in the Selected Reserve totals 6 years.
      Applicability of Other Exceptions The exception to the General Rule for Eligibility for a veteran discharged or released for a service-connected disability or an un-remarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died while in service or from a service-connected disability also applies to the 6-year requirement.  However, the exception  for the spouse of a serviceperson missing in action or prisoner of war is not an exception to the 6-year eequirement.
    • What are the criteria to qualify for a VA home loan?
      To qualify for a VA home loan, you must:
      • Meet credit and income standards (i.e. good credit, and sufficient income to repay loan);
      • Have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE, obtained by submitting VA Form 26-1880);
      • Use the home for your own personal occupancy;
      • Have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; and,
      • Meet time-in-service requirements.

    Life Insurance

    • Where Do I Send Life Insurance Claims?
      VA benefits claims for life insurance can be mailed to the applicable offices listed below:   Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Disability Extension Application
        Application for Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Regional Office and Insurance Center (VAROIC)
        P.O. Box 7208
        Philadelphia PA 19101
        Claim for Disability Insurance
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Regional Office and Insurance Center (WP)
        P.O. Box 7208
        Philadelphia PA 19101
        Application for Supplemental Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Regional Office and Insurance Center (SRH)
        P.O. Box 7208
        Philadelphia PA 19101
        Application for Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance
        Department of Veterans Affairs
        Regional Office and Insurance Center (VMLI)
        P.O. Box 7208
        Philadelphia PA 19101
        Application for Reinstatement of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance
        Veterans’ Group Life Insurance Application
        OSGLI
        P.O. Box 41618
        Philadelphia, PA 19176-9913
        Claim for Accelerated Benefits
        The Prudential Insurance Company of America
        80 Livingston Avenue
        Roseland, NJ 07068-1733
    • How Can I Get A Disability Extension for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance?
      For veterans to be eligible for a free two-year extension of SGLI after your discharge date, you must: 1. have been covered by SGLI at time of discharge; 2. be totally disabled by a disability that prevents Veteran from being gainfully employed, or; 3. be disabled by one of these conditions, regardless of employment status:
      • Permanent loss of use of any of the following: both hands, both eyes, both feet, one foot and one eye, one hand and one foot, one hand and one eye
      • Total loss of hearing in both ears
      • Organic loss of speech (lost ability to express oneself, both by voice and whisper, through normal organs for speech.
      Time is of the essence.  Apply within 120 days of your discharge date so that you can automatically be approved for VGLI if you are not approved for this Disability Extension.  Otherwise, proof of good health is required.
    • How Can I Get Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)?
      VMLI is available only to disabled veterans under the age of 69 who have received a Specially Adapted Housing Grant from the VA.  The maximum coverage amount is $200,000, and the money is paid directly to the mortgage holder.  This insurance ends when the existing mortgage is paid in full, or when you no longer own the home.

    Pension Benefits

    • Will the VA Pay Retroactive Compensation and Pension Benefits for Claims Involving Same-Sex Couples?
      For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim, if the claim was pending as of September 4, 2013 (the date of the President's directive), the effective date will be assigned as if the laws barring VA's recognition of same-sex marriage had never been in effect. In some instances, this could mean an effective date as early as the date of marriage or as early as when VA received the claim.
         
      For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim that was not pending as of September 4, 2013, provided that the claimant met all of the eligibility requirements for the benefit by that date, and the claim was received within the following year,
         
        VA generally will assign an effective date of September 4, 2013.
      For claims received more than one year after September 4, 2013, if the claimant met all eligibility requirements on that date, VA may assign an effective date up to one year prior to the date of the claim.
         
        This provides a grace period for persons who were previously ineligible for benefits under the law to learn of the President's directive, and to submit claims and applications based on that change.
           
          Not all VA benefits are subject to the provisions of 38 USC 103(c), such as life insurance proceeds paid to a designated beneficiary, dependent education benefits for Department of Defense-approved transfers of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance or certain burial benefits. However, all eligibility requirements must be met for these and any other benefits or services offered by the VA.

    Service Connection

    • What presumptive diseases are associated with exposure to herbicide agents?
      Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309, 38 U.S.C. 1110, 1112, and 1131, if a veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent during active military, naval, or air service, the following diseases shall be service-connected if the requirements are met even though there is no record of such disease during service, provided further that the rebuttable presumption provisions are also satisfied. In some cases, a veteran may the burden of establishing the exposure and service connection through service records.
      • AL amyloidosis
      • Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne
      • Type 2 diabetes (also known as Type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes)
      • Hodgkin's disease
      • Ischemic heart disease (including, but not limited to, acute, subacute, and old myocardial infarction; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease (including coronary spasm) and coronary bypass surgery; and stable, unstable and Prinzmetal's angina)
      • All chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
      • Multiple myeloma
      • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
      • Parkinson's disease
      • Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
      • Porphyria cutanea tarda
      • Prostate cancer
      • Parkinson's disease
      • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)
      • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
      Note 1: The term “soft-tissue sarcoma” includes the following:
      • Adult fibrosarcoma
      • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
      • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
      • Liposarcoma
      • Leiomyosarcoma
      • Epithelioid leiomyosarcoma (malignant leiomyoblastoma)
      • Rhabdomyosarcoma
      • Ectomesenchymoma
      • Angiosarcoma (hemangiosarcoma and lymphangiosarcoma)
      • Proliferating (systemic) angioendotheliomatosis
      • Malignant glomus tumor
      • Malignant hemangiopericytoma
      • Synovial sarcoma (malignant synovioma)
      • Malignant giant cell tumor of tendon sheath
      • Malignant schwannoma, including malignant schwannoma with rhabdomyoblastic differentiation (malignant Triton tumor), glandular and epithelioid malignant schwannomas
      • Malignant granular cell tumor
      • Alveolar soft part sarcoma
      • Epithelioid sarcoma
      • Clear cell sarcoma of tendons and aponeuroses
      • Extraskeletal Ewing's sarcoma
      • Congenital and infantile fibrosarcoma
      • Malignant ganglioneuroma
      Note 2: For purposes of this section, the term acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy means transient peripheral neuropathy that appears within weeks or months of exposure to an herbicide agent and resolves within two years of the date of onset.
      Note 3: For purposes of this section, the term ischemic heart disease does not include hypertension or peripheral manifestations of arteriosclerosis such as peripheral vascular disease or stroke, or any other condition that does not qualify within the generally accepted medical definition of Ischemic heart disease.
    • What are presumptive diseases for radiation-exposed veterans?
      Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309, 38 U.S.C. 1110, 1112, and 1131, these diseases are considered presumptive for a service connection for radiation-exposed veterans. The diseases listed in the first section are service-connected if they become manifest as defined in section 2 below, provided the rebuttable presumption provisions are also satisfied. The list of presumptive diseases are:
      • (i) Leukemia (other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
      • (ii) Cancer of the thyroid
      • (iii) Cancer of the breast
      • (iv) Cancer of the pharynx
      • (v) Cancer of the esophagus
      • (vi) Cancer of the stomach
      • (vii) Cancer of the small intestine
      • (viii) Cancer of the pancreas
      • (ix) Multiple myeloma
      • (x) Lymphomas (except Hodgkin's disease)
      • (xi) Cancer of the bile ducts
      • (xii) Cancer of the gall bladder
      • (xiii) Primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)
      • (xiv) Cancer of the salivary gland
      • (xv) Cancer of the urinary tract
      • (xvi) Bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma
      • (xvii) Cancer of the bone
      • (xviii) Cancer of the brain
      • (xix) Cancer of the colon
      • (xx) Cancer of the lung
      • (xxi) Cancer of the ovary
      Note: For the purposes of this section, the term “urinary tract” means the kidneys, renal pelves, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra.
      (3) For purposes of this section:
      (i) The term radiation-exposed veteran means either a veteran who while serving on active duty, or an individual who while a member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces during a period of active duty for training or inactive duty training, participated in a radiation-risk activity.
      (ii) The term radiation-risk activity means:
      (A) Onsite participation in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device.
      (B) The occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, by United States forces during the period beginning on August 6, 1945, and ending on July 1, 1946.
      (C) Internment as a prisoner of war in Japan (or service on active duty in Japan immediately following such internment) during World War II which resulted in an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of the United States occupation forces in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, during the period beginning on August 6, 1945, and ending on July 1, 1946.
      (D) (1) Service in which the service member was, as part of his or her official military duties, present during a total of at least 250 days before February 1, 1992, on the grounds of a gaseous diffusion plant located in Paducah, Kentucky, Portsmouth, Ohio, or the area identified as K25 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, if, during such service the veteran:
      (i) Was monitored for each of the 250 days of such service through the use of dosimetry badges for exposure at the plant of the external parts of veteran's body to radiation; or
      (ii) Served for each of the 250 days of such service in a position that had exposures comparable to a job that is or was monitored through the use of dosimetry badges; or
      (2) Service before January 1, 1974, on Amchitka Island, Alaska, if, during such service, the veteran was exposed to ionizing radiation in the performance of duty related to the Long Shot, Milrow, or Cannikin underground nuclear tests.
      (3) For purposes of paragraph (d)(3)(ii)(D)(1) of this section, the term “day” refers to all or any portion of a calendar day.
      (E) Service in a capacity which, if performed as an employee of the Department of Energy, would qualify the individual for inclusion as a member of the Special Exposure Cohort under section 3621(14) of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000.
      (iii) The term atmospheric detonation includes underwater nuclear detonations.
      (iv) The term onsite participation means:
      (A) During the official operational period of an atmospheric nuclear test, presence at the test site, or performance of official military duties in connection with ships, aircraft or other equipment used in direct support of the nuclear test.
      (B) During the six month period following the official operational period of an atmospheric nuclear test, presence at the test site or other test staging area to perform official military duties in connection with completion of projects related to the nuclear test including decontamination of equipment used during the nuclear test.
      (C) Service as a member of the garrison or maintenance forces on Eniwetok during the periods June 21, 1951, through July 1, 1952, August 7, 1956, through August 7, 1957, or November 1, 1958, through April 30, 1959.
      (D) Assignment to official military duties at Naval Shipyards involving the decontamination of ships that participated in Operation Crossroads.
      (v) For tests conducted by the United States, the term operational period means:
      (A) For Operation TRINITY the period July 16, 1945 through August 6, 1945.
      (B) For Operation CROSSROADS the period July 1, 1946 through August 31, 1946.
      (C) For Operation SANDSTONE the period April 15, 1948 through May 20, 1948.
      (D) For Operation RANGER the period January 27, 1951 through February 6, 1951.
      (E) For Operation GREENHOUSE the period April 8, 1951 through June 20, 1951.
      (F) For Operation BUSTER-JANGLE the period October 22, 1951 through December 20, 1951.
      (G) For Operation TUMBLER-SNAPPER the period April 1, 1952 through June 20, 1952.
      (H) For Operation IVY the period November 1, 1952 through December 31, 1952.
      (I) For Operation UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE the period March 17, 1953 through June 20, 1953.
      (J) For Operation CASTLE the period March 1, 1954 through May 31, 1954.
      (K) For Operation TEAPOT the period February 18, 1955 through June 10, 1955.
      (L) For Operation WIGWAM the period May 14, 1955 through May 15, 1955.
      (M) For Operation REDWING the period May 5, 1956 through August 6, 1956.
      (N) For Operation PLUMBBOB the period May 28, 1957 through October 22, 1957.
      (O) For Operation HARDTACK I the period April 28, 1958 through October 31, 1958.
      (P) For Operation ARGUS the period August 27, 1958 through September 10, 1958.
      (Q) For Operation HARDTACK II the period September 19, 1958 through October 31, 1958.
      (R) For Operation DOMINIC I the period April 25, 1962 through December 31, 1962.
      (S) For Operation DOMINIC II/PLOWSHARE the period July 6, 1962 through August 15, 1962.
      (vi) The term “occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, by United States forces” means official military duties within 10 miles of the city limits of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, which were required to perform or support military occupation functions such as occupation of territory, control of the population, stabilization of the government, demilitarization of the Japanese military, rehabilitation of the infrastructure or deactivation and conversion of war plants or materials.
      (vii) Former prisoners of war who had an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of veterans who participated in the occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan, by United States forces shall include those who, at any time during the period August 6, 1945, through July 1, 1946:
      (A) Were interned within 75 miles of the city limits of Hiroshima or within 150 miles of the city limits of Nagasaki, or
      (B) Can affirmatively show they worked within the areas set forth in paragraph (d)(3)(vii)(A) of this section although not interned within those areas, or
      (C) Served immediately following internment in a capacity which satisfies the definition in paragraph (d)(3)(vi) of this section, or
      (D) Were repatriated through the port of Nagasaki.
    • What diseases are considered a presumptive service connection for former POWs?
      Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309 and 38 CFR 1112(b), under these conditions, these diseases are considered presumptive for former prisoners of war.
      (1) If a veteran is a former prisoner of war, the following diseases shall be service connected if manifest to a degree of disability of 10 percent or more at any time after discharge or release from active military, naval, or air service even though there is no record of such disease during service, provided the rebuttable presumption provisions are also satisfied.
      • Psychosis
      • Any of the anxiety states
      • Dysthymic disorder (or depressive neurosis)
      • Organic residuals of frostbite, if it is determined that the veteran was interned in climatic conditions consistent with the occurrence of frostbite
      • Post-traumatic osteoarthritis
      • Atherosclerotic heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease (including hypertensive heart disease) and their complications (including myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia)
      • Stroke and its complications
      • On or after October 10, 2008, Osteoporosis, if the Secretary determines that the veteran has posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
      (2) If the veteran:
      (i) Is a former prisoner of war and;
      (ii) Was interned or detained for not less than 30 days, the following diseases shall be service connected if manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more at any time after discharge or release from active military, naval, or air service even though there is no record of such disease during service, provided the rebuttable presumption provisions of § 3.307 are also satisfied.
      • Avitaminosis
      • Beriberi (including beriberi heart disease)
      • Chronic dysentery
      • Helminthiasis
      • Malnutrition (including optic atrophy associated with malnutrition)
      • Pellagra
      • Any other nutritional deficiency
      • Irritable bowel syndrome
      • Peptic ulcer diseaselist_item]
      • Peripheral neuropathy except where directly related to infectious causes
      • Cirrhosis of the liver
      • On or after September 28, 2009, Osteoporosis.
    • What tropical diseases are subject to a presumptive service connection?
      Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309, the following tropical diseases are granted service connection as a result of tropical service, although not otherwise established as incurred in service if manifested to a compensable degree within the applicable time limits following service in a period of war or following peacetime service, provided the rebuttable presumption provisions are also satisfied.
      • Amebiasis
      • Blackwater fever
      • Cholera
      • Dracontiasis
      • Dysentery
      • Filariasis
      • Leishmaniasis, including kala-azar
      • Loiasis
      • Malaria
      • Onchocerciasis
      • Oroya fever
      • Pinta
      • Plague
      • Schistosomiasis
      • Yaws
      • Yellow fever
      • Resultant disorders or diseases originating because of therapy administered in connection with such diseases or as a preventative thereof.
    • What chronic diseases are subject to a presumptive service connection?
      Pursuant to 38 CFR 3.309, the following chronic diseases are granted service connection although not otherwise established as incurred in or aggravated by service if manifested to a compensable degree within the applicable time limits following service in a period of war or following peacetime service on or after January 1, 1947, provided the rebuttable presumption provisions of are also satisfied.
      • Anemia, primary
      • Arteriosclerosis
      • Arthritis
      • Atrophy, progressive muscular
      • Brain hemorrhage
      • Brain thrombosis
      • Bronchiectasis
      • Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder
      • Cardiovascular-renal disease, including hypertension. (This term applies to combination involvement of the type of arteriosclerosis, nephritis, and organic heart disease, and since hypertension is an early symptom long preceding the development of those diseases in their more obvious forms, a disabling hypertension within the 1-year period will be given the same benefit of service connection as any of the chronic diseases listed.)
      • Cirrhosis of the liver
      • Coccidioidomycosis
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Encephalitis lethargica residuals
      • Endocarditis. (This term covers all forms of valvular heart disease.)
      • Endocrinopathies
      • Epilepsies
      • Hansen's disease
      • Hodgkin's disease
      • Leukemia
      • Lupus erythematosus, systemic
      • Myasthenia gravis
      • Myelitis
      • Myocarditis
      • Nephritis
      • Other organic diseases of the nervous system
      • Osteitis deformans (Paget's disease)
      • Osteomalacia
      • Palsy, bulbar
      • Paralysis agitans
      • Psychoses
      • Purpura idiopathic, hemorrhagic
      • Raynaud's disease
      • Sarcoidosis
      • Scleroderma
      • Sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral
      • Sclerosis, multiple
      • Syringomyelia
      • Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease)
      • Tuberculosis, active
      • Tumors, malignant, or of the brain or spinal cord or peripheral nerves
      • Ulcers, peptic (gastric or duodenal) (A proper diagnosis of gastric or duodenal ulcer (peptic ulcer) is to be considered established if it represents a medically sound interpretation of sufficient clinical findings warranting such diagnosis and provides an adequate basis for a differential diagnosis from other conditions with like symptomatology; in short, where the preponderance of evidence indicates gastric or duodenal ulcer (peptic ulcer). Whenever possible, of course, laboratory findings should be used in corroboration of the clinical data.

    Service Discharge

    • What Is Evidence of Service and Character of Discharge?
      Submitting a photocopy of your original discharge document has the potential to delay your claim because then VA must request verification from your former branch of service. The VA will accept a DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or an original Certificate of Discharge, without verification from the appropriate service department if the evidence meets the following conditions:
      1. The evidence is a document issued by the service department. A copy of an original document is acceptable if the copy was issued by the service department or if the copy was issued by a public custodian of records who certifies that it is a true and exact copy of the document in the custodian's custody or, if the copy was submitted by an accredited agent, attorney or service organization representative who has successfully completed VA-prescribed training on military records, and who certifies that it is a true and exact copy of either an original document or of a copy issued by the service department or a public custodian of records; and,
      2. The document contains needed information as to length, time and character of service; this means "long form"; and,
      3. In the opinion of the Department of Veterans Affairs the document is genuine and the information contained in it is accurate.
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