As if the Veteran Affairs Department does not already have their plates filled with a backlog of claims, they are soon to get hit with a cresting wave of lingering Agent Orange claims.
VA officials estimate that approximate 186,000 claims will be filed before the end of the year that address the new rules of presumed service connected disabilities for illnesses that are related to exposure to Agent Orange. Is this not just beyond comprehension? 40 years have passed and we still have soldiers dying of Agent Orange illnesses!
Yet, I have to stand in praise of the Obama Administration’s attention to the needs of the VA. Not only did they pass the first ever year end funding budget, October 22nd, 2009, which had not been done in 22 years prior to the end of the calendar year, but they are prognosticating well the needs of the current war veterans and the standing population of vets that are still in need of intensive care from service connected disabilities. To prepare for this onslaught they are hiring about 1800 people to process these claims. The average age would be 60 and assigned a disability rating of 60% or higher. The probability of using third party contractors is quite high since the research for the symptoms and nature of the illnesses has been complete. Not like the days of yore when we had to get the 4th Infantry to fight for us! Many of these claims can by cookie cuttered as a result of knowing the pattern of the illnesses.
It is the stated declaration of the VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that he will add a total of 4400 new employees to remedy the backlog of claims, inclusive the new Agent Orange claimants. The secretary affectionately calls this a “brute force” solution to the problem. We are currently experiencing about 160 days to work a file. The goal is not allow that to rise.
The estimate is that about 160,000 vets will file claim, at a cost of about 13,500 per veteran, inclusive of mileage.
It is ischemic heart disease that is determined to be service connected to Agent Orange exposure. Issues with brands of leukemia are still being researched.
Last year the VA processed just under 1 million claims. The projection for 2011 is about 1.3 million. The total cost of the Agent Orange claims will be about 13.4 billion in 2010. Should the Parkinsons and leukemia claims be approved, inclusive of widows benefits, they are estimating a cost of 42.2 billion over the next 10 years.
War is damn expensive ain’t it? Even when it is over. Lets hope that the indiscriminate use of chemicals does not occur again. But then the jury is still out on the effects of depleted uranium, and we still have vets making claims from exposure to atomic warfare materials. God save us.