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If you want the complete and correct ratings for each of the benefits you've earned, you must do most of the work to get there for yourself. Nobody will do it for you. This is not a spectator sport. You have to get in the scrum.

We will provide the intel for you to manage your benefits, you do the rest. Nobody cares about your benefits the way you do.  Nobody.

Veterans & Agent Orange  Update 2012 

The committee reviewed all relevant literature published

between October 2010 and September 2011 and integrated

the new findings with the previously assembled

epidemiological data on each health outcome assessed with respect to

exposure to the chemicals constituting the herbicides used in Vietnam, including the dioxin contaminant 2,3,7,8-TCDD. The single new conclusion was that there is limited or suggestive evidence of a scientifically meaningful association of stroke with exposure to the chemicals in question.

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Dear Jim,

This email is in regard to my father-in-law. He is a WW 2 veteran, serving in the Navy / Pacific/ USS Tripoli. He is now 90 yrs. old. We have applied for VA benefits for for him as he is not competent enough to do it for himself. It has been established that he has early dementia, hypertension, pulmonary nodule, unsteady gait, bladder urgency, impaired balance, 80% hearing loss, cannot live alone and needs assistance with daily living. 

We have just received a statement from the Department of Veterans Affairs telling us of his total VA Benefits per month; $12.33.
The question is: What can we do to increase his VA benefits? Can we remove his wife's Social Security benefits from the VA benefits calculations to improve his VA benefits? What are other deductions from their annual income that should apply?


VA provides a wide array of benefits for many veterans. The benefits are scaled to provide monetary support for veterans who are disabled because of service connected injuries or diseases (disability compensation) as well as for veterans who are totally disabled because of conditions that aren't service connected (pension).

To receive disability compensation requires that the veteran be able to prove a service connection as well as the degree of disability. To be eligible  for pension requires that the veteran be totally disabled due to non  service connected causes as well as to have an income at or lower than
the current established federal poverty level.

When establishing  income for the VA pension benefit, almost all income is considered. The  pension benefit is "means tested". Any income currently being received  by the veteran or his dependents is counted against the amount the veteran may receive. That's why you see the relatively low award of $12.33.

Your best bet is to review his options carefully and to ensure that you've correctly and accurately taken any deductions allowed in the regulations. You have to be careful trying to exclude income
such as that of the spouses Social Security income. VA and the Social Security Administration have cross-checking programs that are slow and cumbersome but will eventually catch any errors and then demand repayment.

A common misconception is that VA is readily available to provide financial assistance to an older veteran who served decades ago. This just isn't the reality that tens of thousands of aging vets face each day.VA has tight rules and regs that they try to follow and unless the veteran fits into the overall scheme at VA, financial help through disability or pension benefits is impossible to achieve.

If your father-in-law doesn't have an existing service connected disability or if he has too much income to qualify for pensionbenefits, VA won't have much else to offer.

You can learn more about how the VA pension system works by clicking here

Click A Topic Below
To Go To That Page

American Military Veterans VA & Social Security Disability Benefits

Transitioning Veterans Fly Free for Job Interviews


VA has decided to not add hypertension, stroke, or several other conditions to the existing presumptive list for Agent Orange.  

They particularly excluded cancers of the oral cavity or of the nasal cavity; I have had quite a few senior oncologists observe that allowing for aero-respiratory cancers (as is done now) but not including cancers of the tongue/tonsils/sinuses etc. on the presumptive list makes no sense medically as the same exposures are experienced.  

That being said, veterans can still pursue claims for a non-presumptive cancer; it just has to be claimed on a direct service basis.  That's when strong supporting nexus statements are needed.


Drew Early, Esq.

Veterans Law Attorney

Thanks Drew!  We appreciate the heads up.

Presumptive v. direct cause has long been a confusing topic for us. When it comes to the presumption of benefits for diseases of the respiratory system, to include the lungs and exclude the trachea makes no sense.

The same holds true for Ischemic Heart Disease. To include the coronary arteries and exclude the carotid and peripheral arteries defies both science and logic. They are a continuous part of  the same system, separated by a few short inches.

Logic and common sense don't have much influence at your VA though so this is just business as usual.

Veterans who have these "nearly-presumptive" conditions must use the power of a well written nexus letter to prevail. Vets who need a nexus letter may achieve their goal with an IMO and records review. For more about that, click here.

Quick Facts

Vietnam vets & Prostate Cancer

All Vietnam veterans who served with their boots on the ground in the RVN are presumed to have been exposed to agent orange. Agent orange exposure is presumed to cause or contribute to the development of a number of diseases. Prostate cancer is one of the conditions on The Presumptive List.

The Vietnam veteran who is diagnosed with prostate cancer should be rated at 100% with a temporary rating from the time he applies for the benefit.

This 100% rating is temporary and does not carry the enhanced benefits of a 100% P & T rating. Future exams will be scheduled. VA assumes that most men will elect treatment such as surgery, radiation or both. 

Because of recent scientific knowledge, many men elect to defer treatment. This is often called 'watchful waiting'. If the veteran chooses watchful waiting, his rating should remain at 100% temporary for life.

If the veteran chooses treatment and the cancer is no longer detectable, the rating is reduced to reflect the residual effects of treatment.

VA often errs and proposes to reduce the 100% benefit of a veteran who chooses watchful waiting. This is almost always resolved with a simple DRO appeal process.

For more about the Vietnam veteran and prostate cancer, click here.

Basic Medical Benefits Package for Veterans   

Veterans Medical Care Benefits provide outpatient medical services, hospital care, medicines, and supplies to eligible Veterans. Veterans with service-connected disabilities living or traveling overseas must register with the  Foreign Medical Program regardless of the degree of disability.