House Veterans Affairs Committee
The Honorable Lane Evans-IL - Ranking Member
Press Release

Evans Hails Agent Orange Decision Approving Retroactive Benefits for Vietnam Veterans:

Urges Veterans and Surviving Spouses to Contact VA If Vietnam Veteran Had Filed a Claim for Prostate Cancer or Diabetes

April 4, 2002

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America's Veterans

Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Lane Evans, senior Democratic Member of the House Veterans Affair's Committee, today hailed the recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit approving retroactive benefits to Vietnam veterans who suffer from the effects of exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In Nehmer v. Veteran's Administration of the United States Government, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a decision of the United States District Court finding that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was bound to provide retroactive benefits under a consent decree signed by the government in 1991. The Court stated that for 'more than fifteen years, veterans suffering from diseases they believe to have been caused by Agent Orange have struggled with the United States for compensation.'

Evans applauded the interpretation stating, 'when our servicemen and servicewomen are harmed as the result of exposure to toxic agents in defense of freedom, it is our government's responsibility to make them whole.' The order applies to prostate cancer and diabetes claims filed by veterans and their survivors. Evans said, "illegal and unduly restrictive interpretations of federal law were used by the VA for many years to restrict the benefits earned by veterans as a result of their service to our country. This latest court decision is another victory for fairness and equity." Evans urges Vietnam veterans or their surviving spouses who had filed a claim based on prostate cancer or diabetes to contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 for information as to the impact of the Nehmer decision on their claims.

The Court also affirmed a lower court interpretation allowing the families of veterans who had died of medical conditions associated with herbicide exposure to collect the full amount of benefits which would have been payable had the veteran lived. The VA objected to paying more than two years of retroactive accrued benefits. Evans stated, 'the families of veterans who have been deprived of the monies which should have been paid to deceased veterans deserve to be compensated.' The Court's decision will assure that veterans and their surviving family members receive the full benefits they are due.

Evans has also introduced legislation, the Veterans Claims Continuation Act, which would eliminate the two-year restriction on payment of retroactive benefits to family members of veterans who die while their claims are pending. The Evans' bill, H.R. 3733, would provide other surviving family members with the kind of retroactive relief mandated by the Nehmer consent decree.