Understanding Nehmer Claims for Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
Attorney Vanessa Brice recently won a Nehmer claim on behalf of a Vietnam veteran. But what is a Nehmer claim?
These cases stem from a ruling in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This was a 1986 class action lawsuit against the VA by a Veterans Services Organization. Back then the only presumptive claim for veterans exposed to Agent Orange was Chloracne – a skin condition from direct contact with the dioxins in Agent Orange. Veterans, the medical community, and others disagreed with this limited rule, believing the damages and injuries to veterans from Agent Orange exposure was much more extensive and significant. To resolve the lawsuit, in the early 1990s the VA entered into a consent decree resulting in the agency issuing regulations detailing several “presumptive” conditions.
A presumptive condition means the veteran has only to prove he or she was in Vietnam or any of the other more recently identified exposure areas, or on one of the Blue or Brown water vessels. Then, any conditions on the list are automatically presumed to have been caused by the Agent Orange exposure, and the veteran is granted service connection for those conditions or disabilities.
The original list of presumptive disease included the following:
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lungs, larynx, trachea, and bronchus)
- Some soft tissue sarcomas
- AL amyloidosis
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
In 2010, the VA added additional conditions to the list including:
But what happened to the veterans that filed claims under these new conditions but who were denied before the 2010 regulation adding them? Nehmer!
If a veteran served in Vietnam (either boots on the ground or one of the other places with known exposures); filed a claim for either Parkinson’s, ischemic heart disease, or chronic B-cell leukemia; and was denied, and the veteran was actually diagnosed with one of those conditions, then the veteran would be eligible for retroactive benefits.
As part of the settlement, the court ordered the VA to review all potential Nehmer class members, identify those with previously denied claims, adjudicate them appropriately, and then pay out the retroactive benefits. Of course, the VA was not able to identify all Nehmer claimants.
These claims can result in substantial benefits to veterans if they fall into the Nehmer class. If you or a loved one has a potential Nehmer claim, call Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter at (407) 712-7300 for a free case review. Don’t just assume that just because your veterans’ disability claim was denied years ago that it’s a lost cause.