Posts belonging to Category VA NEWS/BENEFITS & SERVICES


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VA Expands Disability Benefits for Air Force Personnel Exposed to Contaminated C-123 Aircraft

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today published a new regulation that expands eligibility for some benefits for a select group of Air Force Veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft that had been used in Vietnam as part of Operation Ranch Hand (ORH).

VA published this regulation as an interim final rule so that it could immediately begin providing benefits to eligible Air Force veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who submit a disability compensation claim for any of the 14 medical conditions that have been determined by VA to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald made the decision to expand benefits following receipt of a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. This VA-requested report found evidence that as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.

“Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” said Secretary McDonald. “We thank the IOM for its thorough review that provided the supporting evidence needed to ensure we can now fully compensate any former crew member who develops an Agent Orange-related disability.”

Under this new rule, Air Force and Air Force Reserve flight, medical and ground maintenance crewmembers who served on the contaminated ORH C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during their service, thus making it easier for them to establish entitlement for some VA benefits if they develop an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition. In addition, for affected Air Force Reserve crew members, VA will presume that their Agent Orange-related condition had its onset during their Reserve training. This change ensures that these reservists are eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any Agent Orange-related presumptive condition, and that their surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.

The interim final rule can be found on the Federal Register: VA will immediately begin processing claims and issuing benefits to eligible Air Force crew members.

VA encourages reservists who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (906th  and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron), Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron) or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, International Airport ( 758th Airlift Squadron) during the period 1969 to 1986, and developed an Agent Orange-related disability to file a disability compensation claim online through the joint VA-Department of Defense web portal, eBenefits (

VA also has identified several active duty locations where ORH C-123 aircraft may have been used following their service in Vietnam. Active duty personnel who served in a regular USAF unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned and who had regular and repeated contact with the aircraft through flight, ground or medical duties during the period 1969 to 1986, and who develop an Agent Orange-related disability, also are encouraged to apply for benefits. For more information on applying for these benefits, including the affected units, Air Force Specialty Codes and dates of service for affected crew members, and a listing of Agent Orange-related conditions, visit

In order to avoid unnecessary delay of benefits, claimants should annotate “(C-123)” after each Agent Orange related disability in Part II, Block 14 of VA Form 21-526 or Section I, Block 11 of VA

Form VA Form 21-526EZ when filing on eBenefits.  Example: Diabetes (C-123).  If claimants have any of the following documents, they should be attached to their application:

  • Discharge, separation papers,  (DD214 or equivalent)
  • USAF Form 2096 (unit where assigned at the time of the training action)
  • USAF Form 5 (aircraft flight duties)
  • USAF Form 781 (aircraft maintenance duties)
  • Dependency records (marriage & children’s birth certificates)
  • Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)

VA will process all claims related to C-123 exposure at the St. Paul, Minnesota, VA Regional Office.  Claims not filed through eBenefits should be mailed to the following address (or faxed to 608-373-6694):

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

Attention: C123 Claims

PO Box 5088

Janesville, WI 53547-5088

Individuals with specific benefit questions related to herbicide exposure on C-123s may call VA’s special C-123 Hotline at 1-800-749-8387 (available 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST) or e-mail

Veterans Entrepreneur Training Support (VETS) Program Workshop

VETS Flyer

Bipartisan and Bicameral Group Introduce Legislation to Award Congressional Gold Medal to WWII Filipino Veterans Bill will recognize dedicated service of Filipino Veterans during World War II

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) today announced the introduction of legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino Veterans of World War II. They were joined in this effort by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV), Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA), Congressman Mark Takai (D-HI), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) as original cosponsors of the measure.
“Filipino veterans fought bravely alongside American forces during World War II, and our recognition of their service and sacrifice is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “Our nation owes these individuals our deepest and sincere gratitude. I am pleased to join my colleagues in a bipartisan and bicameral effort to honor these veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal, a well-earned tribute for their service.”
“The Filipino veterans of World War II have faced many challenges in their fight for compensation, family reunification, and verification of wartime service. Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal would go a long way toward making sure that their stories are never forgotten,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. “I have been an advocate for Filipino veterans since I first learned their stories— fighting to reunify Filipino veterans with their families and to ensure that every Filipino veteran who sacrificed for us during World War II can receive the benefits they have earned. Time is running out for the diminishing number of Filipino World War II veterans and I call on my colleagues in the Senate award these brave soldiers the Congressional Gold Medal, giving them the honor and recognition they earned.”
“I am pleased to be a lead sponsor of this bipartisan legislation recognizing the courage of hundreds of thousands of Filipino Veterans who fought in World War II,” said Senator Harry Reid. “Throughout my career I have been a fierce advocate for the Filipino community, which is why I made sure the Recovery Act of 2009 created a compensation fund for Filipino veterans who fought in World War II but have been denied the benefits they deserve. I have pushed for legislation to right the wrongs of the past by easing the process for Filipino veterans and their families to reunite.  We can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside American forces. However, with this Congressional Gold Medal, Congress can finally take a long overdue step in correcting past wrongs. This medal will stand as a testament to the sacrifice of these heroes and to the patriotism of their community.”
“Filipino soldiers helped ensure Allied victory in the Pacific,” Congressman Joe Heck said. “Bestowing this honor upon them is past due, but I am pleased to join in this bipartisan, bicameral effort to award these friends of the United States the Congressional Gold Medal. We must also acknowledge all of those who have not had their service formally recognized by the United States. While this Gold Medal is an important and necessary step, I will continue the fight to have the Denied Filipino Veterans recognized.”
“Filipino and Filipino-American veterans made tremendous sacrifices during World War II and played a big part in our victory. As such, they should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Senator Dean Heller. “Nevada is home to many Filipino veterans – some of whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. These heroes answered the call to duty without question, and I am proud this legislation will finally ensure they receive recognition from Congress and the nation for their valiant acts of military service.”
“Virginia is lucky to have such a strong Filipino-American community, largely as a result of the community’s military ties in the Hampton Roads area, home of the largest Naval base in the world,” said Senator Tim Kaine. “This is a cause that is just. It’s long past time Filipino veterans of World War II receive the recognition they deserve and I’m proud to be a part of this effort to grant them the Congressional Gold Medal.”
“More than 200,000 Filipinos who fought alongside American soldiers during World War II have still not been properly recognized for their courageous service,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “Today, far too many have not received the basic veterans’ rights they earned.  While we continue to work in Congress to give Filipino veterans and their families the benefits they deserve, awarding them with the Congressional Gold Medal will honor them for their heroic service and patriotism.”
“I’m excited to be a part of the movement to obtain national recognition for Filipino and Filipino-American Veterans,” said Congressman Juan Vargas. “It is tremendously important that we honor the people who fought so valiantly against the crushing expansionism of Imperial Japan—some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Introducing this bill is the first step toward officially recognizing these veterans with our nation’s highest expression of appreciation.”
“I am pleased to see the Filipino veterans of World War II finally receive the recognition they deserve. Approximately two hundred and fifty thousand Filipino soldiers fought alongside U.S. forces, it is long overdue that they be honored for their service. It is the moral obligation of the United States to provide recognition to the Philippine Army veterans who served alongside our troops in the Pacific.  The awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal will hopefully begin the process of repaying our debt to the brave soldiers of the Philippines,” said Congressman Mark Takai. 
This effort is part of a movement to obtain national recognition for Filipino and Filipino-American World War II soldiers across the United States and Philippines for their instrumental wartime service to the United States and strategic role in the Allied victory over the Empire of Japan.
The legislation acknowledges over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II.

COLLEGE PLANNING AND ACADEMIC RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS recently designed two resources specifically for servicemembers and those considering ROTC. One is a guide explaining how ROTC programs work, and the other is designed to help military service members and veterans make the most out of college.

You can view the resources here.

Veterans to Receive 1.5 Percent Cost-of-Living Increase

New Rates for Compensation and Pension Benefits in 2014

WASHINGTON (Dec. 4, 2013) – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”

For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar.  Until this year, that was required by law.  Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.

For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent.  The full rates are available on the Internet

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.

Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits.  The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.

In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.

For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

For more information about VA benefits, visit, or call 1-800-827-1000