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Unveiling the Truth: How Veterans Can Get Compensation for Delayed Onset Conditions

Atty. Alexandra Jackson:[00:00:00]For folks in this situation, for veterans who have something that’s come up many years after discharge, what steps would you recommend that they take to try and help their claim?

Atty. Francis Jackson: there’s no, you know, one size fits all formula, but the object is to get as much information as you can to show that these things are tied together. One situation that recurs a lot is someone will get an injury in the service. Take a back injury, for example.

And they’ll have trouble with it, but it’s not debilitating. They’re able to work. And then they’ll go along and they’ll get hurt at work. And the VA will inevitably try to pass that off as, well, yeah, he hurt his back in the service, but it wasn’t any big deal, you know, it’s not really the cause of his problem.

Atty. Francis Jackson: [00:01:00] So, welcome to Victory Over VA. This is our podcast, your guide to Veterans Benefits. We are here today talking about one of the many myths about Veterans Benefits and let me just welcome you. This is our podcast series and let me tell you who we are. I’m Francis Jackson. This is Alexander Jackson. And we’re from Jackson and MacNicol, a law firm that focuses on serving veterans and helping them to get justice [00:02:00] on their claims for disability benefits.

So, what’s this all about? Well, this is all about Veterans Benefits Claims and specifically. How you can get the latest information on the best way to present your claims. Every week we talk about a different topic. Each one is narrow, but we will focus in over time on pretty much every topic that is of interest to folks pursuing Veterans Benefits Compensation.

So who’s this show for? It’s for veterans. But more than that. It’s for everybody who is concerned about veterans folks who have a loved one who’s a veteran, just the entire community that’s supporting our veterans. So let’s talk about today’s topic.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: So today’s topic is conditions that manifest years after discharge. There is a myth out there that you can’t get service connected for [00:03:00] those, is that right?

Atty. Francis Jackson: That myth abounds. You are absolutely right.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: How does VA handle that though? How do they deal with claims for conditions that come up, you know, years after discharge? And what’s the big criteria for eligibility for service connecting those?

Atty. Francis Jackson: Well, the criteria for connecting the claim and getting service connected benefits is always the same. It’s three parts. There has to be a medical condition now. Right today. You have to have served in the United States military. And there has to be That’s a good one, yep. And there has to be a medical opinion that connects your service and your medical condition.

Those are the three pieces that you have to prove every time, no matter what. So, in real terms with delayed conditions Delayed onset conditions. [00:04:00] What that means is you have to find a way to demonstrate that something happened during the period of military service that led to the current problem.

And there’s a whole huge range of these things where the issue comes up later. But in another episode, Kristian Tireson and I were talking about conditions like hypertension that people come down with years later. And in that particular episode, we were talking about the fact that it has now been established that years and years later, the effects of exposure to Agent Orange can bring on hypertension. Pfennigy

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Also known more commonly as high blood pressure, right? That’s right. Are there other specific medical conditions that are commonly recognized by VA as delayed onset? [00:05:00]

Atty. Francis Jackson: There are a number of conditions under both are arising from both Agent Orange and from exposures to the burn pits under the PACT Act where there’s a presumption that conditions that arise even years and years later. are connected to service condition.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: But how are presumptions treated in the claims process? Are they different?

Atty. Francis Jackson: Yeah, the way it works we ran through the three conditions. You have to have a medical condition now, you have to have an event or an illness in service, and you have to have a medical opinion to connect those.

So, what presumptions do, is they kind of take out that central piece about the medical condition, of the medical opinion connecting the two. Essentially, when there’s a presumption, and just take for our purposes here the presumption under the PACT Act, that if you served in [00:06:00] the Middle East and were exposed to smoke from the burn pits, it’s now presumed that if you get certain respiratory diseases, they are a result of your military service. You don’t have to show that medical opinion tying the two together.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Okay, so you’d still have to show a current problem and that you served in the correct area or time period for the instruction.

Atty. Francis Jackson: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: What about, you know, we were mentioning the Gulf War here, what about things that they can’t figure out or can’t identify. You know, it’s called Gulf War Syndrome a lot. But these kind of weird things that vets seem to have that nobody seems to be able to pin down.

Atty. Francis Jackson: Yeah. Gulf War Syndrome is a very tough one. All that the medical folks have been able to establish is that folks who served in the Gulf War, for whatever reason, and it may be exposure to the burn pits, it may be something else.

Nobody really knows, but there is a [00:07:00] constellation of symptoms, a lot of digestive symptoms and other symptoms that occurs in these veterans that doesn’t seem to occur naturally for people who weren’t there, but nobody can figure out exactly what it is. And this, now this entitlement to benefits for this undiagnosed condition and it’s an odd thing.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: But they do get some sort of presumption also? Like benefits?

Atty. Francis Jackson: There is presumption. The hard part it’s proving that it’s an undiagnosed illness because I see. Doctors always want to call it something. And once you call it something, it’s no longer an undiagnosed illness. And it goes around this vicious circle a lot.

But they’re, you know, all joking aside, there is clearly a constellation of symptoms that occurs in those folks over and over. And the VA does recognize that they are entitled to benefits. It’s just hard to assemble the facts [00:08:00] in such a way that you can demonstrate that they have this constellation of symptoms that’s undiagnosed and fits within the criteria.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Are there other common challenges that veterans face when they’re trying to link a condition that occurred years after service back to service?

Atty. Francis Jackson: Yeah, there are several, but one of the biggest ones is that the VA looks for what they call continuity of symptoms, meaning if you got hurt or got sick during service and you’re now claiming the condition based on that injury or illness, the VA wants to see, wants to be shown that those symptoms have been occurring right along from that time up until now.

And so, one of the ways that you could run into a problem, and often do, is that medical records, [00:09:00] you know, years and years ago, people just kept paper medical records. Now, essentially, they kept them forever. But now, there are bigger organizations most medical practices are no longer an individual doctor.

They’re groups of doctors or hospitals. And they typically have a records retention system where if the patient has not been in treatment with them in the last few years, they destroy the records. And so, one of the big problems that occurs in these situations where you have later onset or what is more typical really is later increase in the severity of the symptoms.

And it’s very hard to show that continuity of symptoms because the doctors that they went to 20 years ago have retired or died and the records have been thrown out and it just makes it difficult. But [00:10:00] there are ways to get past that, but it is a recurring problem.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Okay, so that’s more likely with like, you had a back injury in service, you saw your chiropractor and your doctor for, you know, through the 80s, they died in 2000, you saw somebody else, that sort of stuff.

Atty. Francis Jackson: Yeah.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: As opposed to like, the high blood pressure we were talking about with Agent Orange. Yep. Where you have an exposure.

Atty. Francis Jackson: Yeah those are different, but all these delayed onset things, it’s the same problem. You have to trace the impact of the event and service and show that it comes up to the, causing the current problem.

And, unfortunately, there are diseases that just take a long time to occur or to manifest is the correct term. Yes, thank you. Glioblastoma, for example, which is a nasty brain cancer that both Ted Kennedy and John McCain died from. Is potentially caused by exposure [00:11:00] to Agent Orange, dioxin in, within Agent Orange.

But because it takes so long to manifest there was a lot of difficulty for years in trying to prove that condition was related to service. Now there is better, there’s better A, information and B presumptions about it that make that simpler. But all these delayed onset things it’s always a problem tying it back to service.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: What about coming at it from the other end? Do veterans ever have problems where they clearly have the medical condition and people agree that it’s caused by a certain exposure, but they have trouble proving they’re in the right area? Or the right time period for it?

Atty. Francis Jackson: Oh, sure. That happens. Korea is a classic example. Lots of Agent Orange was used in Korea along the Demilitarized Zone. But the actual statutory presumption there only covers a period of a couple years. And Korean veterans have had terrible problems [00:12:00] trying to prove that they were close enough to the debilitarized zone and close enough in time to the use of dioxin to show that they were entitled to the ultimate determination that they should be entitled to benefits for what are typically common Asian Orange kinds of conditions like diabetes.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Could you share a memorable case where you had a classic many years post discharge manifestation? You know, just talk a little about how did you present the evidence and what did you finally get for an outcome?

Atty. Francis Jackson: We have a case right now that we’ve had a terrible time with for a gentleman who was in Korea. His, the camp he was stationed at was not physically located at the DMZ. It was a little bit inland or a little bit further from the DMZ. And [00:13:00] the VA had consistently said that he wasn’t close enough to be exposed. But in fact. He was a cook and he was repeatedly assigned to go from the camp, where they were, to the DMZ and take food and supplies and meals.

And we were finally able to find an expert who opined that his exposure was sufficient and even though outside the presumptive period still of a high enough level of exposure to account for his diabetes. And I think he’s finally going to be granted now based on that opinion.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Okay. For folks in this situation, for veterans who have something that’s come up many years after discharge, what steps would you recommend that they take to try [00:14:00] and help their claim?

Atty. Francis Jackson: Well, there’s no, you know, one size fits all formula, but the object is to get as much information as you can to show that these things are tied together. One situation that recurs a lot is someone will get an injury in the service. Take a back injury, for example.

And they’ll have trouble with it, but it’s not debilitating. They’re able to work. And then they’ll go along and they’ll get hurt at work. And the VA will inevitably try to pass that off as, well, yeah, he hurt his back in the service, but it wasn’t any big deal, you know, it’s not really the cause of his problem.

He had this later injury at work and that’s really the cause of his entire problem. And what you have to do is you have to get evidence that shows that, in fact. There was trouble with the back prior to the injury. In fact, you ended the case. I [00:15:00] did, yes. Why don’t you tell us about that?

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: Yeah, I had a gentleman with very sparse medical records, extremely sparse. And he did have an at work injury in the 90s. VA was very clear that was the origin of the injury. And my gentleman stated that he’d actually had an injury in service. It was I believe an obstacle course training. And what ultimately ended up convincing the judges was he had put in a VA claim in the 80s for service connection for his back prior to the injury in the workplace.

So even though he didn’t actually have medical evidence from that period because, as you mentioned before. A lot of records get destroyed we had evidence that he thought there was a back problem related to service prior to a workplace injury. So if it unless he was lying, which seemed unlikely ’cause most people don’t [00:16:00] go to the effort of putting in a VA claim, especially in the 80s if they don’t believe there’s something there.

So that was sufficiently persuasive to the judges.

Atty. Francis Jackson: And in that case. Even though he hadn’t gotten benefits on that claim in the 80s, you established, you used that claim to establish that he had back problems before he had the workplace injury.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: That’s correct. They accepted that as evidence that he was having medical issues at the time prior to the injury.

So, we’ve talked a lot about ways that you can go ahead. How do veterans figure out if they have a condition that they should be going ahead with at all?

Atty. Francis Jackson: That one’s harder, but.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: I’m only talking these delayed onset. Does that make it a little easier?

Atty. Francis Jackson: It does, but it, you know, it’s a problem. I mean, one of the difficulties, even with presumptive conditions and all the information that is out in the universe about Agent Orange and later on set conditions [00:17:00] for various medical problems like diabetes. There are still people who don’t know that they can make those claims. In fact, you had a claim like that, correct?

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: I did. I did. I had a gentleman who had a heart condition claim for Agent Orange, presumptive. We were going to the VA for a board hearing about what the rating should be. I won’t bore you with the mechanics of that because they’re not related to this, but I was talking to him and, you know, he’s an Asian Orange Vet, right?

So, I’m going to start talking to him about all the other constellation of things that could be wrong. And so, I started talking to him about diabetes and I asked him, do you have it? And he said, yeah. I said, okay, well, you don’t have a claim for it. You’re presumptive. We should just put it in. And he said, what?

And I said, you’re presumptive. We should just claim it because we know Agent Orange causes diabetes. And we know it causes [00:18:00] diabetes complications because it causes diabetes. So there’s a whole chain there. And he just kind of looked at me and said, okay. We should do that. And I got talking to him because, you know, it was clear to me at that point we needed to vet more things.

And he was in country in Vietnam. And he’d made some comments to me while we were talking about his heart issues that suggested to me there might also be mental health conditions underlying. Because he expressed that he was having trouble distinguishing between actual heart issues physically and mentally.

And what sounded to me like extreme anxiety, panic attacks, basically. And I asked him if anybody had ever screened him for PTSD. And I was talking to him kind of through the symptoms. And he was like, well, no, but it sounds like what I have. And his nurse sister, who’d come with him for moral support, was completely aghast [00:19:00] because she’s listening to all this medical stuff and going.

You absolutely need to go get checked out. I mean, that’s something you should be getting treatment for, right? It could make your life better. So, we ended up sending him to see his doctors, and, you know, they agreed, and we ultimately ended up putting in claims. But it was very much that, you know, there were two issues.

One, you have to know you have a medical problem, right? He thought it was purely a heart condition. He didn’t realize there was underlying mental health. But also, he didn’t know that his diabetes was presumptive and he could have claimed it years ago for extra back benefits. So the combination of the two ironically, he also ended up getting an increase for the heart because I told him to go to his cardiologist and get tested and they ended up in emergency surgery.

But that’s a completely different story. So yeah there’s plenty of things people just don’t know about. I think definitely checking the presumptive list on the VA website is a really good place to start. Just, you know, there’s plenty of conditions that aren’t presumptive, that are connected.

But, as a general [00:20:00] rule, for most veterans, those are the easiest ones to go after. And it’s a lot, it’s a good place to start, basically.

Atty. Francis Jackson: And, on the whole delayed onset issue there are other conditions that kind of come on gradually over time. And hearing loss is a common one. Where people don’t understand that may be related to events that happened in the service.

A lot of heavy noise exposure in the service, especially for folks who worked around jet airplanes or helicopters. Artillery, all kinds of things. Thanks, you know, just a lot of loud noise in the military. So there are all these conditions and you know, we don’t have time to go through the whole laundry list, but there are all these.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: We’d have to do like a rap style list of them to make it all fit.

Atty. Francis Jackson: We would. So there are just all these conditions that even though people really start to suffer with them at a [00:21:00] later point in life, they really had their origin or their genesis in the military. And even though the symptoms don’t become, significant to the person until later this delayed onset is a problem and people don’t recognize the connection or just don’t understand that those conditions may be connected to the military services in their case.

So, I think we’re out of time.

Atty. Alexandra Jackson: And thank you for tuning in to Victory over VA.

[00:22:00]

In this week’s episode of Victory Over VA, Attorneys Francis Jackson and Alexandra Jackson shed light on the misconception that veterans cannot get service connected for conditions that manifest years after discharge. They explain that the criteria for eligibility remain the same, including a current medical condition, military service, and a medical opinion connecting the two. 

They discuss specific conditions, such as hypertension caused by exposure to Agent Orange, that are recognized by the VA as delayed onset conditions. Veterans and their loved ones must be aware of these possibilities and seek proper medical evaluation and legal assistance.

If you or a loved one is a veteran, it is crucial to stay informed about Veterans Benefits and the claims process. Take advantage of the resources available, such as the VA website’s presumptive list, which can serve as a starting point for identifying conditions that may be easier to claim. 

Remember, even if symptoms manifest years later, they may still have their origins in military service. Stay tuned as we continue to provide valuable information and support to veterans and their communities.

Other subjects we covered on the show

  • Service-connected disability claims for conditions that manifest years after discharge.
  • The myth that says “You can’t get service-connected for delayed onset conditions”.
  • The three-part criteria for eligibility for service connection.
  • VA’s handling of claims for conditions that arise years after discharge.
  • Medical conditions commonly recognized by VA as delayed onset.
  • Presumptions in the claims process and their treatment by VA.
  • The importance of knowing about presumptive conditions and the VA’s presumptive list.
  • Examples of delayed onset conditions related to Agent Orange exposure.
  • The significance of seeking proper medical screening and treatment for underlying conditions.
  • Common conditions like hearing loss may have their origin in military service.

AND MORE TOPICS COVERED IN THE FULL INTERVIEW!!! You can check that out and subscribe to YouTube.

If you want to know more about Attorneys Francis Jackson and Alexandra Jackson, you may reach out to them at:

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