Chris Clay, DAV General Counsel, reports in the July/August 2016 DAV Magazine:
Since 2010, the VA has recognized the challenges veterans face in proving that certain disabilities result from herbicide (Agent Orange) exposure during the Vietnam era. To assist these veterans, the VA created special rules and presumptions for Agent Orange claims. Veterans exposed at certain bases in Thailand have benefited from these rules.
Last year, without warning or explanation, VA effectively eliminated this assistance for countless veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand. It did so by inserting a change into its Adjudication Manual, a lesser-known publication that is not monitored as carefully as statutes and regulations.
DAV was not asleep at the switch. With outstanding assistance from attorney Zach Stolz, of Rhode Island-based Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD, DAV quickly filed a complaint in federal court in Washington, D.C. The law requires that veterans get notice of significant changes to regulations. That’s just common sense. This was a big change, potentially affecting many thousands of veterans, and it took place with no fanfare and no opportunity for objection.
To its credit, the VA responded quickly with an offer to restore the status quo. The affected Thailand veterans once again will enjoy the advantages of an easier path in proving their claims. “DAV is there to help veterans, one by one or by the thousands,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “It doesn’t matter who, what, where or when. Disabled veterans and their families are our only priority.” DAV is grateful to Stolz for his fine work and to the VA for recognizing an error and setting things right. That is the way the “system” is supposed to work.