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Stories show how getting VA benefits can still require a fight

Ben Franklin gets credit for saying that there are only two things certain in life -- death and taxes. Some have offered that there might be a third -- mistakes will be made.

Considering the history of veterans' benefits, including some recent items that have made the news, it might be possible to think about adding yet a fourth to the list. That would be that when it comes to getting the government to fulfill its promises, a lot of eligible veterans who fought for their country can expect to face another fight to obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.

As examples of what we mean consider these items:

  • Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs published regulations that could expand Agent Orange benefits for a group of more than 2,000 Vietnam era veterans. They were exposed to residue when they worked on the planes that were used to spray the hazardous chemical during the war. Their claims had generally been dismissed until now.

  • Also last month, National Public Radio reported how the VA had failed to fulfill a promise of benefits to some 4,000 World War II vets who had been secretly subjected to mustard gas. Only 610 veterans ever received benefits, and that only happened since 1993. NPR managed to find another 1,200. When asked for an explanation for the gap in delivery, the VA said it suffered from incomplete records.

  • More recently, it was revealed that documents needed for claims for an unknown number of disabled veterans had wound up in the Los Angeles VA Regional Office's shredding bin. How and why is not clear. Members of Congress say they want to find out.

The fact is promises of benefits have been offered to veterans of every major conflict that the United States has fought since the Revolution. And, according to the website Encyclopedia.com, actually obtaining all the benefits has often proven to be a challenge. If you face such difficulties, an attorney's help might be called for.

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Melissa A. Proudian, Attorney at Law
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Fresno, CA 93711

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