Veterans Benefits Manual
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2023-2024 Edition Editors:
Barton F. Stichman, Special Counsel to and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Ronald B. Abrams, Special Counsel to and Former Joint Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Richard V. Spataro, Director of Training and Publications of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Stacy A. Tromble, Director of Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Litigation of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Rochelle Bobroff, Director of Pro Bono at the National Veterans Legal Services Program, supervising the Lawyers Serving Warriors® program.
The 2023-2024 edition of the Veterans Benefits Manual has been thoroughly updated with the important developments in veterans law over the past year. The most significant new information in this edition of the Manual involves the numerous changes in law made by the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022—one of the greatest expansions of veterans benefits in U.S. history. The parts of the Manual explaining the changes made by the PACT Act include:
- The service locations in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan, and Africa that now entitle veterans to the presumption of exposure to toxic substances (Sections 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124);
- The more than 20 diseases and medical conditions that now qualify for presumptive service connection due to exposure to toxic substances, such as fumes from burn pits (Section 126.96.36.199);
- The new service locations outside Vietnam and the Korean DMZ that entitle veterans to the presumption of exposure to herbicides containing dioxin (Sections 188.8.131.52 and 3.8.1);
- The two additional diseases that now qualify for presumptive service connection due to Agent Orange exposure (Sections 184.108.40.206, 3.8.3, and 3.8.4);
- Additional radiation-risk activities that qualify veterans for presumptive service connection for radiogenic diseases (Section 220.127.116.11);
- The newly available monetary benefits for children born with spina bifida to a veteran exposed to herbicides outside of Vietnam (Section 7.7.2);
- The greatly expanded groups of veterans that now qualify for enhanced eligibility status for enrollment in the VA health care system (Sections 10.2.1 and 10.5.2); and
- A new section explaining the non-VA process that veterans and survivors can now use to obtain monetary damages for illnesses caused by contaminated water at Camp LeJeune (Section 18.104.22.168).
In addition to information about the PACT Act, highlights of the other updates to the 2023-2024 edition of this Manual include advocacy essentials such as:
- How the modernized review system created by the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA), which took effect on February 19, 2019, has been operating in practice (Chapters 12, 13, and 16);
- Advocacy tips on how to obtain an effective date earlier than August 10, 2022, for an award of benefits for a medical condition presumed to be caused by toxic exposure under the PACT Act (Section 22.214.171.124);
- Advocacy tips on how to use the PACT Act’s presumption of toxic exposure to obtain a favorable medical opinion connecting such exposure to non-presumptive conditions (Section 126.96.36.199);
- Advocacy tips on using the Claims Accuracy Request (“CAR”) program to overturn a Regional Office decision when there are clear errors of fact or law (Sections 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.6);
- Advocacy tips for filing a successful claim for service connection for an undiagnosed illness on behalf of a veteran of the Persian Gulf War (Sections 220.127.116.11.1 and 3.7.2);
- Discussion of the 2023 Federal Circuit decision that invalidates the VA’s secondary service connection regulation, making secondary service connection available if a primary service-connected condition prevents treatment of a different condition not otherwise connected to the primary condition (Section 3.4.4); and
- Updated information regarding Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program (“TSGLI”) benefits, including initial claims, administrative appeals, and federal court review (20.2.2).
The 2022-2023 Edition ISBN was 9781663347992.
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Table of contents
Chapter 1 Introduction And How to Use This Manual
PART I DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR VETERANS
Chapter 2 Veterans' Basic Eligibility For VA Benefits
Chapter 3 Compensation for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities
Chapter 4 VA Disability Benefits or Damages for Injury or Death Caused by VA Health
Care or Other VA Activities
Chapter 5 Setting, Increasing, or Reducing a Veterans' Service-Connected Disability
Chapter 6 Pension For Veterans with Non-Service-Connected Disabilities
PART II VA BENEFITS FOR NON-VETERANS
Chapter 7 VA Benefits For Family Members
PART III RULES AFFECTING THE AMOUNT OF BENEFITS PAID
Chapter 8 Effective Dates For Awards of Benefits
Chapter 9 Special Issues For Disability And Death Benefits
PART IV VA HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS
Chapter 10 VA Health Care
Chapter 11 Other VA Benefits
PART V THE VA CLAIMS ADJUDICATION PROCESS
Chapter 12 Adjudication of Legacy and Modernized (AMA) Claims by VA Regional Offices
Chapter 13 Board Of Veterans' Appeals
Chapter 14 Avenues Available to Correct Errors in Final BVA Decisions and Common
Errors Appealable to the Court
Chapter 15 Court Review of VA Decision-Making
PART VI ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF VA CLAIMANTS
Chapter 16 Reviewing VA Claims Files
Chapter 17 Effective Advocacy Before the VA
Chapter 18 Obtaining Military Records And Information To Help Substantiate A Claim
Chapter 19 Attorney's and Agent's Fees Paid By VA Claimants Or By The VA
PART VII CORRECTION OF MILITARY RECORDS
Chapter 20 Military Compensation
Chapter 21 Correcting Military Records
TABLE OF CASES