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

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had 56 percent remanded back to the VA Regional Offices for corrections, and lost only 19 percent (4 percent were withdrawn by the veteran).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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