It’s not difficult to see that the VA doesn’t always make it easy for veterans to claim the medical benefits they’re owed. In a recent North Carolina case, former marine Pete Lambert had to wait nine years to get a claim for his kidney disease approved. Previous VA secretary David Shulkin was denied by the White House in 2018 when he recommended adding three new conditions to the list of eligible conditions for Agent Orange-related benefits.
These two stories show two different aspects of the VA’s inefficiencies: internal and external. Lambert was a victim of internal inefficiencies, as it was the VA’s internal organization that caused him, alongside over 150,000 other veterans, to wait years for their claims to be processed. Shulkin experienced the external factors, of lack of funding and respect from other aspects of the government.
Pete Lambert was stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 1970s, where the drinking water was later revealed to be toxic (Lambert makes it clear in the article that those at the camp were aware that dry cleaning fluids were leaking into the water supply, even when he was there). He developed kidney disease in the 1990s, and it progressed into the 2000s. He filed a claim in 2009.
Nine years later, Lambert had yet to receive a claims approval. The VA claims tracker said he still had almost 31,000 people ahead of him waiting for claims, and any calls lead to dead ends. Lambert decided to reach out to a troubleshooter, and within days of her involvement, Lambert’s case had been resolved. He received a six-figure deposit for his claim.
Lambert was a victim of the internal inefficiencies of the VA. His benefits claim was valid and serious, but he got lost in a flood of veterans with equally valid and serious claims. In an ideal world, the VA would have the resources and management that would let it set up systems to process everyone efficiently. Sadly, we live in the real world.
Ex-Secretary Shulkin’s Case
Secretary Shulkin brought his case forward after the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found “limited or suggestive evidence” of a link between Agent Orange and bladder cancer, hypertension, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Had his suggestion to the White House been acted upon, veterans suffering from those conditions would have received expedited access to compensation and health benefits.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mick Mulvaney refused to accept the links and subsequent costs of providing the 83,000 afflicted veterans with proper care. While specific reasons were redacted, Mulvaney and other high ranking officials questioned the validity of the request since the Agent Orange Act of 1991 had expired.
Not long after his request, Shulkin was fired from his position as secretary of the VA, with various reasons provided by the White House.
Shulkin’s case is an example of the lack of support the VA gets from the federal government. He had a valid request and was denied for undisclosed reasons. Months after Shulkin was fired and the request had been denied, the NASEM ruled that there was “sufficient evidence” of a link between hypertension and Agent Orange. Despite the complications of determining which veterans are suffering from age-related hypertension and Agent Orange-related hypertension, over 300,000 veterans have the condition and will need treatment.
If you are having trouble with your VA claim, contact Hershon Legal and schedule a consultation.