Dying Vietnam Vet with MDS


I have emailed you in the past and you provided me with very sound advice. Thank you for that! I am 100% for PC due to agent orange. Today I email you to ask a question for a fellow Vietnam veteran and friend of mine who is not expected to live much more than 6 months. He has MDS and is trying to have the VA recognize this disease as caused by agent orange. He is disabled for PTSD and received the CIB and PH. I believe his rating is 70%. Since the VA does not presume agent orange is the cause of his MDS, when he dies his spouse will most likely NOT receive DIC (it seems due to him dying of a non-rated disease).  Jim, do you have any thoughts on this situation? I would like to try and help him and his family if possible.

Jim's Reply:

The cause of Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) isn't precisely known, although there is reason to suspect that exposure to certain toxic chemicals may cause or contribute to the disease. I'd advise that you help your friend to file a claim now so that there is a record of the claim if he passes sooner than later. If the claim is filed prior to his death his surviving spouse can continue the claim to its final adjudication, even through an appeal if that should be necessary. The claim should be simple and straightforward, "I'm claiming that my MDS was caused, contributed to or aggravated by exposure to agent orange and/or other hazardous materials."

Once that claim is filed and there is an effective date established, he must then quickly prove the substance of the claim. As you say, the association between MDS and agent orange or other substances he may have been exposed to are not presumptive and he must show why his disease is connected to his military service. The best way to accomplish that is with an Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) that is developed with a review of medical records done by an expert in disability medicine. The IMO doctor will review all pertinent records and issue an opinion based on relevant science and published data. The IMO is about the only effective way to reach the goal in cases like these. A favorable IMO almost always succeeds in the face of a negative VA opinion. You can find the physicians I refer to here.   Thanks for lending a hand to a brother in need. Good luck, sir.