By Kimberly Hefling Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Veterans Affairs Department took steps today to make it easier for veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to get disability benefits. To qualify for the new streamlined status, they must have malaria, West Nile Virus or one of seven other diseases.
The VA has proposed a regulation change that lets veterans qualify for benefits by showing only that they served in the recent conflicts, or in the Gulf War, and have a diagnosis of any of nine diseases. Called “presumptive status,” it’s easier to prove an illness stems from war service.
Such status had been given to veterans from earlier eras with certain diseases, but this is the first time veterans from the recent conflicts qualified.
“We recognize the frustrations that many Gulf War and Afghanistan veterans and their families experience on a daily basis as they look for answers to health questions and seek benefits from VA,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement.
Shinseki made the decision after a recommendation by the agency’s Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force.
The seven other diseases are brucellosis, campylobacter jejuni, coxiella burnetii, mycobacterium tuberculosis, nontyphoid salmonella, shigella and visceral leishmaniasis.
On the Net:
Veterans Affairs Department: www.va.gov/