VA Clears New Agent Orange Claims Backlog

This proves VA – when it wants to – can move fast.

The Veterans Affairs Department said it has just about cleared claims for disability compensation by veterans suffering from three medical conditions that result from exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant sprayed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

VA presumes all 2.6 million veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange and in August 2010 added three new medical conditions that qualify Vietnam veterans for disability compensation: hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's Disease and ischemic heart disease.

This added 240,000 claims to the VA caseload, and the VA said this week it has processed 230,000 claims since 2010. The department's accomplishment was the result of a combination of brute force and technology.

VA assigned 37 percent of its ratings staff – 1,200 personnel – to the cases, contracted for an Agent Orange claims processing system with IBM and set up a specific Web portal for vets to file Agent Orange claims.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the VA has approved $3.6 billion in claims for the three new Agent Orange-related medical conditions with about 500 cases left in the hopper.

This proves that VA – when it wants to – can move real fast to process claims with a combination of people and technology acquired and fired up on a tight deadline.