Beginning in 1986, the federal court released a series of decisions that affected all veterans exposed to Agent Orange (or dioxin). Known collectively as Nehmer, these decisions made it possible for many veterans exposed to Agent Orange to receive earlier effective dates for conditions presumptively related to Agent Orange exposure. As a result, a number of veterans’ files were flagged for special review, but many other veterans either did not receive a special review or the rules were not applied correctly.
What do the Nehmer laws state?
When the VA adds to the list of presumptively service-connected symptoms and diseases caused by Agent Orange, it is now required to automatically review previously denied claims. Of course, this only applies to veterans who served in Vietnam during the Vietnam era and have a covered herbicide disease (such as Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, prostate or respiratory cancer, or type 2 diabetes).
A Nehmer class member is entitled to compensation for a covered herbicide disease if a claim or service connection was denied in a decision between September 25, 1985 and May 3, 1989, was marked as pending on May 3, 1989, or was received between May 3, 1989 and the effective date of the regulation establishing presumptive service connection for the covered disease.
If a Nehmer class member dies before receiving retroactive benefits, the VA will award those unpaid benefits to his or her spouse, children, parents, or estate.
How do the Nehmer Court Orders help veterans?
Although the Nehmer Court Orders are favorable to Vietnam veterans and their survivors, VA disability rules are complex and these claims are not automatic. In fact, it could take a long time for your claim to get reevaluated die to the sheer volume of cases. Some VA regional offices have tried to speed up this process by only reviewing Nehmer cases for a period of time, but this naturally creates a backlog of other cases, slowing down the review process to a crawl each time a condition is added to the presumptively service-connected list.
Does the rule apply to you?
First, you’ll need to show that you were exposed to Agent Orange or another dioxin. If you’re a Vietnam veteran who had boots on the ground or were on a ship that patrolled close to shore or the inland waterways, the VA will presume that you were exposed to Agent Orange. If you were stationed in South Korea, special rules apply to you, and you may also have presumed exposure. Otherwise, you’ll need to provide additional evidence.
Next, you will need to show that you’ve been diagnosed with AL Amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, diabetes mellitus, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers (including lung cancer), or a soft tissue sarcoma.
Then, you will need to know the date that you made a claim for any of the above conditions, the date you were diagnosed for any of the above conditions, and the dates of any other claims you’ve made to the VA. You may be eligible for an earlier effective date if the VA received your claim prior to the date that the condition was added to the list, or if you had a pending claim for another condition when you were diagnosed, as long as the VA received medical records for that diagnosis.
If you believe that Nehmer may apply to your veterans disability claim, please call us at 1-855-278-7414 or contact us online.