Is Dementia a Service-Connected Injury for Gulf-Region Veterans?


As an Elder Law attorney, I don’t see as many WWII veterans as I used to, since fewer and fewer of them are still with us.  Instead, more and more of my fellow baby-boomers who are Viet Nam veterans are coming to my office for assistance.  Many conditions that can cause a person to require healthcare advocacy or long-term care, such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease, have been proven to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange.  It is important to make sure that these individuals are receiving all of the financial and healthcare benefits from the VA to which they are entitled, since these conditions are likely to complicate the usual challenges of getting older.

Now, a study recently published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology suggests that I, and the Elder Law attorneys who follow me, may soon be seeing more and more of the veterans who served in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.   The journal reports that exposure to bomb blasts affects the brain in such a way that the soldier is more likely than the norm to require additional rehabilitation and suffer from dementia.  This appears to be so even if the blast was up to 100 yards away, and did not result in a concussion.

It took many years before the VA confirmed both that anyone serving in Viet Nam was exposed to Agent Orange, and that exposure was the cause of the conditions listed above (and, unfortunately, many others).  Even in view of this new research, it will take many more years before the VA will acknowledge that  anyone who served in the Gulf Region was likely exposed to dangerous bomb blasts, and that exposure was the cause of specific conditions they may not be able to report for many years to come.  Veterans returning from their deployment would be wise to document their exposure to these blasts and keep track of the medical treatment they received to support their need for VA benefits as they get older.

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