Veterans Ask VA for Information on Camp Lejeune Disability Claims
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 18, 2016 – The approval rate for disability claims arising from Camp Lejeune-related illnesses has fallen by two-thirds since the Department of Veterans Affairs introduced a third-party process to review veterans’ medical files.
Veterans advocacy groups have filed a Freedom of Information request for details about the identities and qualifications of the experts in the VA program. “Veterans could benefit from greater transparency on the VA’s part. The agency should make public basic information about its personnel and the process they use to evaluate claims,” said David Magann, a Florida-based veterans attorney.
Almost a million veterans, their families and civilians may have been exposed to toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from the mid-1950s until the 1980s. The groundwater at the Marine Corps training base was contaminated with cancer-causing industrial solvents and other harmful chemicals.
According to federal data, Florida is home to thousands of potential victims, the second-highest number in the country. VA officials and federal scientists studying the health effects of Camp Lejeune’s polluted water participated in a town hall meeting in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Dec. 5. Veterans affected by the water complained about difficulties in getting the agency to provide disability benefits.
The VA has tasked an unidentified group of Camp Lejeune subject matter experts with reviewing the medical documents of veterans who are seeking disability compensation for exposure-related illnesses. The experts supply a medical opinion on whether the illness is related to the contaminated water. The veteran does not meet with the expert nor get to view the expert opinion.
Claims approvals have declined from 25 percent to 8 percent since the program’s introduction in 2012, raising questions about the training and autonomy of the VA’s experts. The experts were accused of providing opinions that were outdated, based on incorrect science and that failed to pay attention to the evidence veterans submit to get benefits. Veterans’ advocates claimed the VA placed too much importance on the experts’ opinions. However, VA officials argued their medical opinions are only “one piece among many of evidence” that are included when deciding a claim.
“The experts are contributing to making decisions that significantly impact the lives of veterans. Veterans are entitled to know why their claims were denied, who contributed to the decision and what documents and policies were used to decide,” said MagannLearn more at http://www.tampaveteranslawyer.com/ David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548