If you are a Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange or other chemicals, the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) might help you out!
This year, active-duty military will receive a 3% pay raise, while veterans receiving disability compensation will see an increase in their monthly payments.
Vietnam War veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism (a funny word for the collection of symptoms of Parkinson’s) now have broader access to disability benefits, as these conditions now have a presumptive service connection based on Agent Orange exposure, while veterans who are sexual trauma survivors now have access to care for the horrors they suffered during their military service.
These changes come as a result of the Social Security Administration’s Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for VA disability benefits, and the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In this article we will cover:
- How the COLA increase will impact your VA disability payments; and
- How the 2021 NDAA helps active-duty military and veterans.
If you have any questions about these changes, our expert team of VA disability lawyers can help you.
In this article about the NDAA for veterans in 2021:
- How the COLA Increase Will Impact your VA Disability Payments
- The 2021 VA disability pay rate tables:
- How the 2021 NDAA Helps Active Duty Military and Veterans
- What is a Presumptive Service-Connected Condition?
- What Presumptive Service-Connected Changes Did the 2021 NDAA Implement?
- How to Get Disability Benefits for Bladder Cancer
- How to Get Disability Benefits for Hypothyroidism
- How to Get Disability Benefits for Parkinsonism
- Do you Have Questions?
- Helpful Related Links
How the COLA Increase Will Impact your VA Disability Payments
If you are a veteran receiving disability benefits, you can look forward to a small spike in your disability check this month.
On October 13, 2020, the SSA announced that the 70 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits will receive a 1.3% COLA increase of these benefits in 2021. As a veteran receiving disability compensation, you fall within this category of Americans, and this 1.3% increase has already been applied to our 2021 VA disability pay rate calculator .
The 2021 VA disability pay rate tables:
|VA Rating||Your Monthly Check||Increase from Last Year|
|10% VA Rating||you will receive $144.14||$1.85 increase from 2020|
|20% VA Rating||you will receive $284.93||$3.66 increase from 2020|
|30% VA Rating||you will receive $441.35||$1.85 increase from 2020|
|40% VA Rating||you will receive $635.77||$8.16 increase from 2020|
|50% VA Rating||you will receive $905.04||$11.61 increase from 2020|
|60% VA Rating||you will receive $1146.39||$14.71 increase from 2020|
|70% VA Rating||you will receive $1444.71||$18.54 increase from 2020|
|80% VA Rating||you will receive $1679.35||$21.55 increase from 2020|
|90% VA Rating||you will receive $1887.18||$24.22 increase from 2020|
|100% VA Rating||you will receive $3146.42||$40.38 increase from 2020|
Therefore, the amount of your next monthly payment will likely be the figure above that corresponds with your VA assigned disability rating. However, if you have dependents, this amount will be even higher.
Still unsure how your payments will be impacted? Our team can assist you! These updated figures are now reflected on our free disability calculator and we can help you calculate your estimated monthly payment. Keep in mind that these figures change from year to year and if you are trying to seek backpay, estimating your compensation amount is even more complicated. Therefore, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced attorney to help you through this process.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
How the 2021 NDAA Helps Active Duty Military and Veterans
On January 1st, the 2021 NDAA officially became law after a tumultuous legislative history. The bill that originally passed on July 23, 2020, was approved by the Senate on December 11, 2020, then vetoed by President Trump on December 23, 2020. However, the Senate ultimately overrode this veto on January 1, 2021, making it law.
So how exactly does this bill help active-duty military and veterans? This almost 4000-page bill covers broad ground such as:
- The removal of Confederate names, paraphernalia, symbols, etc. from all Dept. of Defense property, within three years from enactment of the NDAA. For example, the Army bases named after confederate generals, i.e. Fort Bragg, Fort Lee, and Fort Hood, etc. would need to be renamed.
- Organizational and logistical changes to the recently formed US Space Force that includes the voluntary transfer of military personnel to this new branch and a quicker process for the procurement of space systems.
- A 3% pay raise for active-duty service members and a $25 increase in Hazardous Duty pay. Raising this amount from $250 to $275.
- Sexual trauma support for service members and veterans, allowing victims of sexual harassment to confidentially report this outside their chain of command. These changes also mandate the VA to institute coordinated care for veterans who are sexual trauma survivors.
These are only a handful of the benefits the 2021 NDAA has to offer. Therefore, we strongly recommend speaking with an attorney about what additional benefits you may be entitled to. However, in this section, we will dig further into a major benefit that helps veterans, which is the VA’s addition of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism as presumptive service-connected conditions for Vietnam War veterans.
What is a Presumptive Service-Connected Condition?
A presumptive service-connected condition is one that the VA presumes a veteran developed because of, or as a result of their military service. This presumption is usually based on circumstances common to a whole group of Veterans’ military experiences. If a veteran has a presumptive service-connected condition, then they would be automatically eligible for disability benefits without having to prove their service connection.
For example, a Vietnam War Veteran who has Type 2 diabetes has a presumptive service-connected condition. This presumption is based on the fact that veterans who served in the Vietnam War were likely exposed to Agent Orange, which is a herbicide the military used to remove vegetation and leaves. There is a known association between Agent Orange and Type 2 diabetes, therefore, this veteran would be able to get VA disability benefits based on their presumptive service-connected diabetes and forego having to prove a service connection.
This is important because service connections are difficult to prove. If a you have a disability and you are trying to obtain disability benefits, you must prove that your condition is either directly connected to your military service or secondarily connected to a condition that is already directly connected.
When proving a direct or secondary connected condition a veteran would need to provide evidence such as:
- Medical Records
- Claims File
- Doctor Reports
A presumptive service-connected condition allows veterans to forego proving their condition to the VA and gain access to a disability rating and compensation.
What Presumptive Service-Connected Changes Did the 2021 NDAA Implement?
The 2021 NDAA added more diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive service-connected list for Vietnam War veterans. More specifically, the NDAA added bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism as Agent Orange presumptive service conditions.
As discussed above, Vietnam War veterans were more likely to be exposed to Agent Orange during the war and as a result, federal law provided that the below diseases were presumptive conditions of likely exposure to this herbicide.
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Soft-Tissue Sarcoma
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Respiratory Cancers
- Multiple Myeloma
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
This list has now been expanded to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism, allowing veterans with these conditions to have easier access to disability benefits.
One of our VA disability lawyers goes over the Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions list in this video:
How to Get Disability Benefits for Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that develops when there is an overgrowth of cells in the bladder that ultimately form a malignant tumor. Bladder cancer is very common among veterans. Statistics show that 3.6% of VA cancer patients have this type of cancer, making it one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers amongst this population.
The 2021 NDAA has added bladder cancer to the Agent Orange presumptive list for Vietnam War veterans, because of the likelihood that veterans with this condition were exposed to Agent Orange during the war.
Bladder Cancer symptoms include:
- Recurrent urination
- Painful urination
- Back pain
Bladder cancer is rated under Diagnostic Code 7528. Veterans who have this condition are eligible for a 100% rating. This high rating gives veterans access to maximum disability compensation. Therefore, if you are a Vietnam War veteran with a bladder cancer diagnosis you have a presumed service connection for this condition, and you are automatically eligible for a 100% disability rating and a $3146.42 monthly payment from the VA.
How to Get Disability Benefits for Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid gland is underactive because it fails to produce adequate thyroid hormones. This condition is very common in veterans. 10% of female veterans suffer from some variation of defective thyroid hormones. Therefore, the presumptive condition changes under the 2021 NDAA will be beneficial for the thousands of veterans who suffer from this disease.
Hypothyroidism is on the Agent Orange presumptive list because scientific studies indicate that there is “limited or suggestive” proof of a link between Agent Orange exposure and hypothyroidism. Therefore Vietnam War veterans who have a high likelihood of exposure to this herbicide can obtain disability benefits for hypothyroidism without proving a service connection.
Hypothyroidism symptoms include:
- Expanded thyroid gland
- Swollen, Rigid, or painful joints
- Muscle pain, soreness, or stiffness
Hypothyroidism is rated under Diagnostic Code 7903. The disability rating for this condition is as follows:
- 30% rating for hypothyroidism without myxedema which is an advanced form of hypothyroidism.
- 100% rating for hypothyroidism with myxedema, cardiovascular issues, and mental disorders.
Regardless of the rating the VA assigns, you are eligible for disability compensation for this now presumptive connected disorder. If the VA gives you a 30% rating you will be eligible for a $441.35 monthly payment, while you can receive a $3146.42 monthly payment if the VA assigns you a 100% rating.
How to Get Disability Benefits for Parkinsonism
Parkinsonism is a collection of nerve disorders that triggers the movement disabilities seen in Parkinson’s disease. This condition is on the Agent Orange presumptive list for Vietnam War veterans because veterans who were exposed to the toxins in this herbicide are likely to develop this condition.
Symptoms of Parkinsonism include:
- Delayed movement
- Impaired speech
- Muscle rigidness
If you are a veteran experiencing any of these symptoms, ensure that you go to a doctor to determine whether you have Parkinsonism. If you receive a diagnosis for this condition, then you are eligible to apply for disability benefits and receive compensation based on the VA disability rating you are assigned.
Parkinsonism is rated under Diagnostic Code 8004 which only issues a 30% disability rating. However, if you suffer from Parkinsonism you may be eligible for a combined disability rating based on the secondary conditions this disorder triggers.
For example, if you have Parkinsonism but you also have impaired speech, you may be eligible for a disability rating under Diagnostic Code 8210 for this secondary condition. When you apply for your disability benefits, you can then combine both your 30% Parkinsonism rating and your disability rating for your speech impairment to receive higher compensation.
If you have a 30% Parkinsonism rating and a 50% speech impairment rating your combined disability rating would be 70%. This rating would make you eligible for a monthly payment of $1444.71. Keep in mind, however, that although your Parkinsonism is a presumptive condition, your speech impairment is not, therefore you would still need to prove that this condition has a secondary service connection to your Parkinsonism before receiving compensation.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Do you Have Questions?
If you have questions about the COLA increase and 2021 NDAA and how these laws affect you, do not hesitate to contact our office. Our experienced team of VA disability lawyers has a comprehensive understanding of these laws and can help you put together a disability application packet that can increase your chances of securing compensation.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
Helpful Related Links
- Recognizing the Symptoms of Myxedema from Healthline.com
- Cancer incidence among patients of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Health Care System
- What is Bladder Cancer from the American Cancer Society
- Agent Orange And Diabetes from the Agent Orange newsleter on VA.gov