Compton: Contributing conditions needed to claim benefits

By George Compton
Saturday, February 9, 2008

Q. My husband served in Vietnam and suffered from diabetes for many years. Upon his death, I applied for benefits and was denied. If diabetes is a condition caused by Agent Orange, why was I denied?

A. For a death to be service connected the cause of death must be from a service-connected condition or that condition must be a major contributing factor in the death.

The death certificate you provided with your claim had the cause of death as heart failure and did not list any contributing conditions.

It is certainly reasonable that your husband’s diabetes was a major contributing factor in his death. You need to discuss contributing factors with the doctor that was treating his diabetes and if his doctor agrees, we need his opinion to help you with your appeal.

Q. Did Congress pass legislation to stop the DIC/SBP offset?

A. As of the time I am answering this question the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act has not been signed into law. Hopefully by the time you are reading my answer it is now law.

The act does not allow for the full concurrent receipt of Survivor Benefit Plan and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. The act does authorize a special payment of $50 per month, effective Oct. 1. That amount will increase by $10 each year for five years.

I look at the legislation as a good start, and the veterans service organizations will continue to work to get full receipt.

Q. I have seen two starting dates for the Vietnam conflict; can you explain the difference?

A. The dates for the Vietnam War are Aug. 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975. For service members who served in-country before Aug. 5, 1964, the start date is Feb. 28, 1961.

— George Compton, retired Army colonel, is the veterans service officer for the County of Ventura, Human Services Agency. Send your questions to Veterans Service Office, 1701 Pacific Ave., Suite 110, Oxnard, CA 93033; phone number: 385-6366; fax: 385-6371; or e-mail: [email protected].