VA Expands Disbaility Benefits
Former servicemembers who were exposed to contaminated water at a North Carolina Marine Corps base are now eligible for veterans disability benefuts, the government announced.
As many as 900,000 people may be eligible at a cost of over $2 billion. Brushing aside the fiscal concerns, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said the extension is “a demonstration of our commitment to care for those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service.” Many veterans and their families had already sued over this issue, claiming that leaking underground storage tanks and other contaminants at Camp Lejune between the 1950s and the 1980s led to over a dozen different serious illnesses. The VA agreed to add kidney cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, and five other conditions to the presumptive illness list for victims who were stationed at Camp Lejune.
To receive veterans disability benefits, victims must have served at Camp Lejune for at least 30 nonconsecutive days during the relevant time period.
The Disability Process
Applicants for veterans disability benefits must prove a connection between their service and their subsequent disbaility. First, applicants must have served for at least 90 days and at least one of those days must have been in an active war zone. Second, they must establish a connection between their disability and their service.
- Direct: There is obviously a direct connection between combat or non-combat injuries, such as the loss of an eye, and the person’s service.
- Aggravated: If the servicemember had a documented pre-existing condition that’s noted on the entrance medical exam and the condition got worse as a result of the victim’s service, such connection also meets the legal requirement. This category often applies in degenerative conditions, like back problems or some respiratory issues.
- Presumed: In certain cases, such as the Camp Lejune story above, the VA presumes that there is a connection between the service and the disability. The VA can, and nearly always does, try to rebut this presumption and deny veterans disbaility benefits.
Regardless of the type of connection, the VA will deny benefits if the disability occurred while the victim was AWOL, if the victim was negligent, and in a few other situations.
Assuming the victim establishes a connection and the VA does not rebut it, the agency assigns a percentage of disability from 10 percent to 100 percent in order to determine the amount of veterans disability benefits. Additional money may be available if the victim also has dependents or suffered certain types of serious injuries, such as blindess or the loss of a limb.
Injured servicemembers deserve veterans disability benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced disability attorney in Morgantown, contact Lawyer Gary S. Logsdon. Home and hospital visits are available.