Agent Orange (Haas v. Nicholson) Decision

The Veterans Benefits Administration held a meeting 7 SEP to brief VSO/MSO organizations on their ongoing information security upgrades and improvements. They also brought the attendees up to date on VBA’s reaction to the recent Agent Orange (Haas v. Nicholson) decision by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs. This decision opens Agent Orange presumptive conditions to all personnel who were recipients of the Vietnam Service Medal and includes those personnel aboard ships and vessels who were off the coast and did not actually set foot "in-country." VBA is currently working with the Department of Justice to perfect their appeal of this decision. They claim that if this decision is allowed to stand then VBA will have to hire an additional 230 full time employees to review approximately 500,000 cases. They also stated that they would expect approximately 86,000 new applications for the benefits and 14,000 DIC claims. It would also cost in excess of $3 billion, as many of the claims would be retroactive which would be very costly.

The VBA will accept and acknowledge any new claims based upon the "Haas" decision with letters stating that they have received the claim but any decision on that particular issue will be delayed pending further instructions from VA Headquarters. Current guidance requires each RO to control these claims with a discreet control number (end product) for tracking and control purposes. VA will continue working on any new claims made that are from other medical issues. The briefer also stated that the Haas decision, if allowed, will totally paralyze VA and nothing else would get done. The question arises that if this would have such a detrimental impact on VA’s ability to perform why can’t they go to Congress and request additional funding to comply with the court’s mandate. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 8 Sep 06 ++]