February 1999/March 1999
Veterans Benefits Update
VVA Sets New Record At BVA
By Bill Russo, Director, Veterans Benefits Program
In 1998, Vietnam Veterans of America's Veterans Benefits Program (VBP)
represented more claimants at the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) than
ever before in VVA's history. During fiscal year (FY) 1998 (ending
September 30, 1998), we represented 239 claimants; in comparison, we represented
197 during of FY 1997.
VVA continues to win the highest percentage of BVA cases of any veterans
service organization. In the past year, we won 21 percent of our cases,
had 56 percent remanded back to the VA Regional Offices for corrections,
and lost only 19 percent (4 percent were withdrawn by the veteran).
By comparison, the average win rate for veterans organizations is 17 percent
and the remand rate is 41 percent.
VVA's success is the result of hard work by the lawyers at Wildhaber
& Associates, staff and volunteers at the national office, and our
Service Reps in the field who represent many veterans at BVA "travel board''
hearings in the VA Regional Offices. High praise especially goes
to volunteer attorney Alex Humphrey, who in three years with VVA has successfully
represented hundreds of veterans at the BVA.
VVA Service Reps Win Millions For Disabled Veterans
The more than three hundred VVA Service Representatives nationwide won
millions of dollars in VA benefits for disabled veterans and their families
last year. During FY 1998, our Michigan VVA program won over $6 million,
while VVA programs in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey
each won over $2 million. Many VVA Service Reps are volunteers, like Roberta
Coba in Pennsylvania. Working out of her home office, she won over
$200,000 in benefits in 1998.
Agent Orange Report Issued By NAS
On February 10, 1999, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released
its report on Agent Orange. Based on past NAS reports, the U.S. Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) has added a number of diseases to the list for
which it will grant presumptive service connection to Vietnam veterans.
There are nine conditions which the VA recognizes as related to Agent
Orange exposure: chloracne, Hodgkins disease, multiple myeloma,
non-Hodgkins lymphoma, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory
cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea), soft tissues sarcoma (which
does not include osteosarcoma, chrondosarcoma and mesothelioma), and the
birth defect spina bifida in the children of Vietnam veterans.
The latest NAS report will not add any diseases or birth defects to
the list. For a summary of the report, see the NAS' website at www.nap.edu
See the "Government Relations'' column in this issue for a discussion of
Vietnam Veterans of America's reaction to the NAS report. The next
NAS report is scheduled to be released in two years.
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