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Compton: Offshore Agent Orange claims denied as legal battle ends

By George Compton
Saturday, February 7, 2009

For the past couple of years, Navy veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam have been waiting for a final court decision about whether exposure to Agent Orange would be extended to cover their service.

On Aug. 16, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims held in Haas v. Nicholson that Vietnam veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam are entitled to disability benefits for diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange. The Department of Veterans Affairs appealed that decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision on May 8, 2008. This case continued through the appeals process, and on Oct. 17, 2008, a petition for a writ of certiorari was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. On Jan. 21, the Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari, ending any further legal challenges in the matter.

The VA will now adjudicate and deny the presumptive claims that were on hold waiting for this decision.

Q. I was recently awarded a 100 percent disability rating from the VA and I understand there is a property tax exemption that I might be entitled to receive. Can you explain?

A. Veterans rated 100 percent service-connected disabled and the widows of veterans who died of service-connected conditions or died while on active duty are eligible for the property tax exemption. The exemption is on the veteran's or widow's principle residence. There is not a partial exemption for disabled veterans rated less than 100 percent disabled.

The property tax exemption is based on income and is adjusted each year based on inflationary factors. Currently, for those with an income of below $51,478, an exemption of $171,952 is placed on the assessed value of the residence. For those with an income above $51,478, the exemption is $114,634.

Applications can be made at the Assessor's Office at the County Government Center. A copy of the award letter from the VA is required.

— George Compton, a 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 george.compton@ventura.org.

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