Link to Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – Toxic Chemical Exposure

The Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs [hereinafter “Committee”] commonly holds hearings on a variety of issues effecting veterans. Most recently, the Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Impact of Exposure to Toxic Chemicals on Veterans and the VA’s Response.” The testimony submitted at the hearing provides a good overview of issues pertaining to Agent Orange (2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)) exposure during the Vietnam war and volatile organic compound (VOC) exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. 

For those interested, a link to both the oral and written testimony can be found at


Military Times Article on Camp Lejeune and “Blue Water” Veterans

I normally don’t comment on proposed federal legislation regarding Title 38 (Department of Veterans Affairs) unless I feel reasonably certain that the legislation is likely to be passed in some form.  A recent Military Times article, however, identified two issues that have been ongoing within the Department of Veterans Affairs: (1) Title 38 benefits for veterans exposed to VOCs at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and (2) proposed changes to the statute regarding presumptions of exposure to Agent Orange (TCDD) for Vietnam-era veterans who served aboard ship off the coastal waters of the Republic of Vietnam (colloquially referred to as “Blue Water Veterans”). The Military Times Article can be accessed at this link.

In relation to the Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s cited “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015”, this bill was referred to committee in March 2015 (this is normally not a positive indication of passage).  I believe a similar bill was also re-introduced in the House early this year. You can track the bill at S 681 (Blue Water Veterans).  The Australian Agent Orange study Senator Gillibrand referred to can be accessed — without cost —- at the following link Researchgate Australian Veteran Study.

If you have questions concerning eligibility or entitlement to benefits under Title 38, please do not hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via email at


Study Released on Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and Male Breast Cancer

As documented in our August 4, 2015 post, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is continuing research and consideration of issues related to volatile organic compound (VOC) exposure  at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  The August 4, 2015 VA Press Release is again contained at

Within the last week, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a study evidencing possible association between male breast cancer and service at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  The study can be access at Evaluation of Contaminated Drinking Water and Male Breast Cancer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: A Case Control Study.

If you have any questions concerning exposure to VOCs at Camp Lejeune and possible entitlements before the Department of Veterans Affairs, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (732) 382-6070 or via email at

Rating Decision Granting 100% Disabled . . . Ancillary Benefits and Long-Term Estate/Elder Law Planning

As we had previously blogged, a number of veterans we represent involve the question of whether the veteran had sufficient service at or near Vietnam to qualify for presumption of service connection under 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a).

In one such claim, located travel orders out of Vietnam provided sufficient information for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to grant service connection for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure.  As often happens, the prior decision subject to Notice of Disagreement did not fully resolve all issues before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  For that veteran, a recently promulgated Rating Decision granted 100% disability for ischemic heart disease (IHD) resolved many of the issues regarding current rating percentage.  I’ll note, given the fact that the veteran’s level of disability unfortunately increased in severity shortly after issuance of the prior Rating Decision granting service connection for IHD, both factually and tactically the proper action was to file a claim for increase rather that a Notice of Disagreement.

There remains a few other issues pending, however, the Agency of Original Jurisdiction (in this case Newark Regional Office) has been pretty efficient with processing so I suspect all issues will be resolved in the near future.  While the recent Rating Decision granting 100% permanently and totally (P&T) disabled was obviously favorable, there were a number of ancillary benefits that I needed to discuss with the veteran.  These ancillary benefits commonly overlap with a veteran’s long-term estate and elder-care planning as detailed in a recent article from  These ancillary benefits include:

1) Change in Priority Group for the Veterans Health Care Administration.  More information can be found at;

2) Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI).  More information can be found at;

3) Enrollment in CHAMPVA for the veteran’s spouse.  More information can be found at;

4) Eligibility for Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA).  More information can be found at

5) Eligibility for Armed Forces Commissary and Exchange privileges.  More information can be found at; and

6) State benefits, to include NJ Property Tax exemption.  More information on the New Jersey property tax exemption, as well as other benefits for qualified veterans, can be found in the NJ Veterans Guide published by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Disability of an aging parent with dependent adult disabled child poses special risks

I discussed in a previous post that increasing numbers of individuals with intellectual disabilities are living into their 60’s. What is now being seen is that the aging process for that child — including diseases of old age such as dementia — may start occurring when they are in their 50’s. The parent(s) may be in their 70’s or 80’s, with health care problems or even dementia of their own. The child may be on the autism spectrum or have other developmental disa bilities. This combination poses urgent concerns for those who are caring for these family members or are aware of their situation.

Suppose the dependent adult child requires substantial hands-on physical assistance as well as safety oversight. The child may attend a group daytime program, and be cared for by their parent in the evening and weekends. The child may not attend any program and may receive all of his care from the parent. What if the parent now develops physical conditions that impair their ability to lift, carry, dress, or support the weight of their child? What if the parent can no longer drive to purchase the groceries or take their child to the doctor? What if the parent can’t climb stairs anymore due to weakness brought on by heart disease, COPD, or arthritis? What if the parent is losing their hearing, or losing their vision due to cataracts or macular degeneration? And what if the parent is becoming forgetful and confused due to the onset of some type of dementia? Who will care for the dependent adult child when the parent needs care?

It’s vital that parents develop practical plans to protect their dependent disabled children as the parents age. There are private services and there are government services. Avoiding the issue by assuming that one of the other children will shoulder the load isn’t practical. Having a family meeting with all the potential caregivers is practical. Acknowledging one’s true limitations isn’t a sign of defeat or failure, it’s a sign of love. I’ve often said “we respect our elders by planning for their care.” Planning for the future care of one’s dependent disabled child is a way to show your love, because you aren’t just leaving things up to chance. Investing in the services of a personal care manager such as a geriatric care manager is practical. Adding a home health aide to the household and helping the child adapt to the presence of this new adult is practical. And creating an estate plan that provides a roadmap for lifetime care is practical.

Call us for practical solutions to the challenges of aging and safeguarding your family’s wellbeing … 732-382-6070