FAQ Friday: Nehmer Claims
Nehmer claims are VA claims for compensation for presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure that were previously denied by VA under the 1984 Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
Q. What is Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs?
Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a 1986 class action lawsuit brought against the VA by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). Veterans believed the VA’s standard used to determine whether disease are related to Agent Orange was too limited, violating the 1984 Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. At the time of the case, the VA stated that chloracne was the only disease scientifically related to Agent Orange exposure.
Q. What did the Court decide?
VA and the NVLSP agreed to settle if the VA issued a new regulation providing presumptive service connection for more diseases, and to adjudicate previously denied claims that were related to those diseases. In other words, the Court overturned the part of the VA regulation that stated only chloracne was associated with Agent Orange, and voided all claims that were denied under that regulation. The VA was then ordered to readjudicate all voided claims.
NVLSP also negotiated an agreement that requires VA to take certain actions when it recognizes a new disease as scientifically linked to exposure to Agent Orange. When the VA adds a new condition to the presumptive list, it must: 1. Identify all claims for the recognized disease that were previously filed and/or denied, and 2. Pay retroactive disability and death benefits to the veterans or their survivors back to the date of the Veteran’s initial claim.
Q. What about effective dates?
The Nehmer decision ruled that the effective dates for the readjudicated claims that were voided under the ruling will be the date of the claim of the voided decision. These claims must have been filed or denied between September 25, 1985 and August 31, 2010. This means that a veteran’s effective date would go all the way back to their initial claim if their claim or denial falls between those dates, and they were denied for one of the now presumptive diseases.
Q. Who is impacted by the Nehmer ruling?
The Nehmer ruling only applies to veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, either with “boots-on-the-ground” or what the VA calls “brown water” veterans. Brown water veterans are those who were stationed aboard ships that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam. These veterans qualify as Nehmer class members.
Veterans who served in other areas, such as the Korean DMZ or Thailand, and exposed to Agent Orange are not eligible under Nehmer.
Q. I am the survivor of a Nehmer class member. Am I able to receive their benefits?
Yes, survivors of Nehmer class members can receive the unpaid retroactive benefits if the veteran died before receiving those benefits. In order to be able to receive those benefits as a survivor, you must be:
- The spouse of the class member at the time of their death, regardless of current marital status
- The class member’s child, regardless of age or marital status (if there is more than one child, retroactive benefits will be divided equally)
- The class member’s parents, regardless of dependency
The retroactive benefits are also payable to the class member’s estate.
As part of the Court’s decision, the VA was ordered to review all previously denied claims of Nehmer class members and pay out retroactive benefits. However, not all Nehmer class members were identified. If you believe you are eligible for an earlier effective date under Nehmer, our office may be able to help.
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