A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

April 2001/May 2001

Veterans Benefits Update

Final VA Regulations on Diabetes And Leukemia

By Leonard J. Selfon, Director, Veterans Benefits Program

In the spring and fall of 2000, VVA petitioned the VA to amend its regulations to include adult-onset diabetes mellitus Type 2 a presumptively service-connected disease as a result of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. In other words, veterans with that form of diabetes would be eligible for service connection without the need to submit medical evidence of a relationship between exposure and subsequent onset. The petitions were based on government studies and a report from the National Academy of Sciencesí Institute of Medicine (IOM).

In its report, the IOM concluded that there is "limited/suggestive evidence" of an association between exposure to herbicides that were used in Vietnam and adult-onset diabetes Type 2. Although the IOM did not find a clear linkage, the level of association found is sufficient to require that the VA add diabetes to the presumptive list of Agent Orange-related diseases in accordance with the provisions of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. In response to the IOMís findings, the VA on May 8 published a final regulation that allows for presumptive service connection for adult-onset diabetes mellitus Type 2.

The regulation addresses only the issue of service connection.

The actual amount of disability compensation each veteran receives will depend upon the severity of individual symptoms and the diseaseís impact upon employability. The VA estimates that some 9 percent of the 2.3 million Vietnam veterans alive today suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by the bodyís inability to process insulin. Note, however, that the regulation does not allow for retroactive benefits--even if a veteran had previously filed a claim for service connection for diabetes as the result of exposure to Agent Orange. All veterans who served, or came ashore, in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975 and who have been diagnosed with diabetes Type 2 should file a claim for service connection with the VA as soon as possible.

The VA and the Office of Management and Budget estimate that the diabetes regulation will result in approximately $3.3 billion in benefits being paid during the next five years. This brings the regulation within the scope of the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which allows for mandatory congressional review of any regulation that will have a significant economic impact (defined as costing the government more than $100 million).

Under the act, Congress is authorized to issue a joint resolution of disapproval if it disagrees with the promulgation of the regulation. Consequently, the regulation includes a delayed effective date of 60 days--the time frame in which Congress may review the regulation--before any claims are processed or benefits awarded. The regulation, therefore, will not go into effect until July 9. This will be the earliest effective date of any granting of benefits for Agent-Orange-related diabetes Type 2.

CHILDHOOD LEUKEMIA

In an April 19 report, the IOM announced its findings that there is "limited or suggestive" evidence that veteransí exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam could result in their children developing a rare and deadly form of cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). It is believed that as many as one thousand children of Vietnam veterans currently suffer from AML.

There is no legal authority from Congress for the VA to compensate and treat these children. However, VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi has requested and obtained the Presidentís approval to ask Congress for legislation to provide for such benefits. Currently, the only disease for which children of Vietnam veterans may receive benefits--including compensation, job training, and health care--is spina bifida.

   

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