Veterans Services

VA to Ease Benefits Rules for Vets Exposed to Agent Orange in the US

Thousands of Veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the United States will, for the first time be eligible for fast-track disability benefits under plans unveiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The move represents another major expansion of toxic exposure benefits for Veterans, this time for individuals suffering from illnesses dating back to the Vietnam War era.  The changes follow mandates included in the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) passed by Congress in August 2022.

Over the last two years, a combination of administration moves and new legislation opened access
to disability benefits for millions of Veterans who incurred injuries from burn pit smoke, radiation contamination and other military toxic exposure events.

In a statement, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the proposed moves “would make it easier for Veterans exposed to herbicides who served outside Vietnam to access the benefits they so rightly deserve.  Our goal is to provide every Veteran of every era with the VA health care and benefits
they deserve, and this is another step in the right direction”, McDonough said.

Rules outlining the change were filed in the Federal Register on Friday, and will still take several months before going into effect. The new proposal would give presumptive benefits status to
Veterans who served in “locations where herbicides were tested, used or stored outside of Vietnam.”  That includes military locations in 12 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Utah — where Agent Orange was present in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  A full list of the specific states and times is available on the VA website.
The rule would also cover troops stationed at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Canada, in June 1966 and June 1967; individuals stationed in Kumbla, India, in 1945 and 1946; and expanded timelines for troops who served in Cambodia, the Johnston Atoll, Guam, American Samoa, Korea, Laos, and Thailand during the 1960s and 1970s.  A full list of these foreign locations is also available on the VA website.

Troops who served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975 — either on the ground or in waterways around the country — already qualify for presumptive benefits status by the department because of Agent Orange exposure.  The toxic defoliant has been linked to a host of cancers and heart illnesses.  Presumptive status means that individuals who develop certain illnesses believed caused by the chemicals do not have to document specific instances where they were exposed, but instead only provide service records showing they were in the area presumed contaminated.  As a result, advocates have pushed for broader use of presumptive status for troops who served around toxic chemicals while in the military but may not have been able to document every instance of exposure because
of records lost over the years.

“This is long overdue justice for many veterans,” said AMVETS National Commander Bill Clark.
“I hope these affected heroes and their families see the news today and feel relief.  This is more than
a policy change; it is an acknowledgment of the sacrifices many veterans and their families made.”

More information on Agent Orange presumptive benefits is available on the VA website.

Free VA Claims Assistance For Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

About 30% of annual mesothelioma claims come from Veterans.  You might have a high risk of asbestos exposure if you served in military occupations from 1930 to 1980.  Every branch of the military relied on asbestos.
•  Army – Asbestos was used in barracks, vehicles and planes.
•  Navy – Boilers, steam pipes and turbines used in shipbuilding contained asbestos.
•  Air Force – Asbestos was present in plane engines, brakes and insulation.
•  Marines – Barracks, ships and vehicles all contained asbestos.

VA benefits are available to Veterans with mesothelioma.  For more information and help with filing a claim, click here.

Memory Care Resources for Veterans

Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be devastating for both seniors and their loved ones.  And while the news itself can be overwhelming, getting the right diagnosis is also the first step in receiving the right care.  From therapies to medications, new and innovative treatments are being developed all the time to improve the quality of life of those living with memory impairment.  Click the link below for help in understanding and managing the disease.

VA Disability Payment Schedule

VA Special Monthly Compensation Rates

VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Rates

PACT Act – What It Is and How to Apply  

The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA healthcare and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps provide generations of Veterans and their survivors with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

The Act:
• expands and extends eligibility for VA healthcare for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam era, Gulf War era and Post-9/11 era.
• expands eligibility for benefits for Veterans exposed to toxic substances.

Veterans can apply online at:
Or you can call the toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387 Mon – Fri, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM ET.
For more complete information and details, click the image above to view and download the full page PDF information sheet, and print it out on your home printer.

Veterans Resources On-Line

Are You Enrolled on The Roll of Honor?

If you or someone you know is a Purple Heart recipient and is not enrolled in The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, please go to their website at or phone them at (845) 561-1765 or 1-877-28HONOR.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, NY is the only facility in the nation dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the stories of our nation’s service men and women who have been killed or wounded while serving in the United States Military.  We rely on family, friends and Purple Heart recipients to share their stories with us.  We need your help to build the Roll of Honor database containing these stories.
To learn more about the Hall of Honor, share your story and FREE enrollment, visit our website at or call The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor at (845) 561-1765

Legal Services for Veterans in Sullivan and Orange Counties

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley wishes to raise awareness of the wide range of free legal services they provide which include, but are not limited to, representation and/or advice in:
• Housing
• Foreclosures
• Child Support
• Consumer Issues
• Elder Law (e.g., preparation of wills, advanced directives, etc.)
• Domestic Violence
• VA Benefits
• Social Security and SSI Disability Claims
• Advocacy for Children
• Protection and Advocacy for People With Disabilities

Vets (or family members of Vets) in need of legal services should contact their main intake line at 877-574-8529. If you have any questions or need information/assistance, contact:
Deanna Arden – Staff Attorney
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project
60 Erie Street – Suite 201
Goshen, N.Y.  10924

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange, Radiation, Toxic Water
Included in Landmark Burn Pit Bill

In addition to improving access to benefits for post-9/11 Veterans exposed to burn pits, the sweeping toxic exposure legislation approved 84-14 by the Senate on Thursday will add two new conditions to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of Agent Orange-related illnesses and expand benefits for Veterans sickened by radiation or poisoned water in certain geographic locations.

The bill adds hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, to the list of illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure, allowing affected Veterans to apply for health care and disability benefits with the VA without having to prove that their condition was caused by their service.

The legislation, expected to pass the House next Wednesday and be signed by President Joe Biden, also expands the geographic areas and service dates for eligibility for benefits, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam and American Samoa and their territorial waters, and Johnston Atoll or any ship that called on the atoll, on certain dates.
The move follows four years of lobbying by advocacy groups to add hypertension to the list of
Agent Orange presumptive conditions, following a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine 2018 announcement of proving a link between high blood pressure and the herbicides used during the Vietnam War and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Under the new legislation, more than 490,000 Vietnam War veterans may be eligible for disability compensation, at a cost of up to $15 billion of the estimated $278.5 billion Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act.  “The days of ignoring wounds from toxic exposures, wounds not seen until years after, are gone,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, speaking on the Senate floor before the bill passed Thursday.  “The cost of taking care of our veterans is high, but the truth is, freedom is not free,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., also speaking in the Senate on Thursday.  Other senior veterans also may be eligible for expanded benefits as a result of the legislation.

In addition to naming 23 illnesses as presumed to be related to exposure to the burn pits used to dispose of waste in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the bill addresses several lesser-known episodes of military exposures responsible for sickening thousands of Veterans.  These include service members who cleaned up a nuclear waste site at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well
as nuclear aviation mishap sites in Palomares, Spain, and Thule, Greenland.  The legislation also includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which allows victims of contaminated water – or their survivors – at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to file lawsuits for illnesses caused by more than
30 years of exposure to chemicals in their drinking water.

The bill expands the geographic region for Persian Gulf War and post-9/11 Veterans to include service in Somalia for those who served between 1990 and Sept. 11, 2001, and adds Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Uzbekistan after Sept. 11, 2001.  It also allows Veterans who served in a combat zone – as proven by having an Armed Forces Expeditionary or service-specific Expeditionary Medal, campaign-specific medal or campaign theater award – and were exposed to burn pits to be eligible for VA health care, phased in between 2024 and 2032, depending on when they served.  It also stipulates that Veterans affected by MGUS or hypertension who are older than 85, are terminally ill, homeless or have an extreme financial hardship may apply now, while all others with MGUS may file a claim beginning Oct. 1, and with hypertension, Oct. 1, 2026.  The phase-in was included in the legislation to ensure that the VA health system does not become overwhelmed with the influx of patients.  The VA currently provides health care to more than 6 million Veterans.  The bill also instructs the VA to review Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims related to the changes that have been submitted or denied that would have
been evaluated differently under the new provisions.

Warning From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

If you receive a suspicious e-mail from the Department of Veterans Affairs,

The VA does not send e-mails asking for personal information, threatening e-mails, or e-mails claiming to take adverse actions on claimants or beneficiaries (jail or lawsuits).  If you receive any of these e-mails or are in doubt about any communications appearing to be from the VA, please contact the VA directly at 1 (800) 827-1000.

Phishing is a type of cyber-attack where the attacker sends a message designed to deceive a person and convince them to reveal sensitive information to the attacker.  It is the most common means attackers use to gain unauthorized access to a device to obtain sensitive information.

Phishing e-mails can come from an unfamiliar sender or familiar looking sender with an e-mail address that is off by a few letters.  Additionally, phishing e-mails can include large or “too good to be true” offers or attachments.

VA takes the security of Veterans seriously.

DoD Extends Online Military Exchange Privileges to Veterans

The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to Honorably Discharged Veterans.
For more information, visit the Department of Defense website by clicking here.

Van Service to Castle Point VA Medical Center

There’s a free van service to Castle Point VA Medical Center on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Van arrives at the Medical Center at 9:00 AM.
Van departs the Medical Center by 2:00 PM sharp.

For Reservations, call (845) 291-2470

If you would like a copy of this schedule, CLICK HERE for a printable version.

Here are the pick-up locations and time schedule.

Location Departs Address
Port Jervis
7:30 AM
VFW Post 7241 – 46 Barcelow Street
VFW Post 3175 – 1316 US Highway 6
8:00 AM
American Legion Post 151 – 185 Wawayanda Avenue
8:15 AM
Shop Rite Supermarket Parking Lot
8:40 AM
Rec. Dept., Activity Bldg. at 375 Washington Street
30 Matthews Street – Parking Lot
American Legion Post 214 – 71 Forester Avenue
Greenwood Lake
CVS Pharmacy Parking Lot – Windermere Avenue
American Legion Post 488 – Lakes & Heaton Roads

* Pick-up times to be determined per trip.

On Wednesdays the van goes to the Bronx VA Medical Center. Pick-ups are in Newburgh and Middletown ONLY, and pick-up times to be determined per trip.
Van departs Bronx VA Medical Center by 3:00 PM sharp.

For Reservations, call (845) 291-2470

  • Vans do not run on county holidays. Vans can make ONLY authorized stops.
  • Veterans are responsible for their own transportation to and from pick-up points.
  • Veterans with mobility problems should arrange to bring an escort.
  • No tipping or other fees permitted.

This van service is offered FREE OF CHARGE as a courtesy to Orange County Veterans.