06 January 2013

"Exit Folder" - getting your affairs in order, just in case

Most of us have some sort of "exit folder" containing the details needed to manage your final care and wishes...our wills, DD-214, birth certificate, insurance, funeral arrangements and such details are commonly part of that folder. I think we need to add one more detail of importance to our survivors, and that is to alert our final physician as to the cause of death determination.

Why? The language of your medical records, including death certificate, can affect the VA's survivor benefit program called Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Your passing due to a service-connected disability may entitle your survivor (and minor or disabled adult children) to a modest tax-free pension of about $1300 per month for life.

If you believe you suffer from an Agent Orange-presumptive illness such as prostate cancer, it may be very important to have a discussion with your physician to ask that your medial records describe the disease as caused by toxic exposure to Agent Orange, or words to that effect. Further, the records must show a degree of medical certainty as to both the diagnosis and causation...words such as "may" or "possibly" are taken by the Veterans Administration to be of the dreaded "less likely to than not" opinion and are useless to the veteran. Work with your doctor on this, and stress the importance...write it out, even!

In my case, I have discussed with my doctors the need annotate my medical records and death certificate specifically in reference my exposure to toxic Agent Orange as an underlying cause of death, if in accordance with their own ethics and judgment. Further, I have a letter to whoever completes my death certificate all the details about my dioxin exposure, the VA-recognized illnesses associated with dioxin and a list of the illnesses I have been treated for. I specifically ask that, if in accordance with his/her judgment, my cause of death be "(cause), due to toxic Agent Orange exposure."

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