Veteran's Disability Claims: Independent Medical Examinations for Agent Orange
The diseases and health conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange may not be properly diagnosed at first. If you are a Vietnam War veteran suffering from potentially service-connected conditions, independent medical examinations for Agent Orange may help your claim.
What is an independent medical examination?An independent medical examination (IME) is a medical examination performed by a non-VA doctor. In most cases, a medical professional that specializes in the veteran's specific health concern performs the IME. For example, if a veteran is filing a claim for numbness in his or her toes, a neurologist may be the doctor of choice to perform the IME.
Why are independent medical examinations for Agent Orange necessary?Exposure to Agent Orange may cause several different health conditions that are often difficult to explain or connect to a veteran's military service. Because research is still being conducted on the long-term consequences of Agent Orange exposure, the possibility that many more health conditions are connected to the chemical.
The types of disabling conditions related to Agent Orange vary in nature, from endocrine disorders to certain types of cancers and even skin diseases. Therefore, for each ailment to be properly diagnosed and connected to Agent Orange, it may be necessary for a veteran to gather independent medical opinions from specialists of his own choosing.
How to Obtain Independent Medical Examinations for Agent OrangeMost veterans do not seek an IME until they have been awarded a low disability rating or denied a service-connection to the disabling condition. At any point during the disability claims process, a veteran has the right to obtain an IME from his or her preferred medical professional.
The VA will not pay for IMEs, and IMEs are at the veteran's own expense. There are many Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) that provide free or reduced-cost IMEs, and several independent doctors provide free or reduced-cost IME services at their clinics.
If you are unable to afford an IME on your own, seek a VSO or veteran-friendly doctor who can assist you in obtaining a free or reduced cost examination.
The Benefits of Getting Independent Medical Examinations for Agent OrangeBecause any private doctor of your choice can complete an IME, an IME can come from a physician that has been treating you for an extended period and supposedly has a better knowledge of your medical history. Many veterans seeking IMEs go to their primary or regular physicians who are able to see the long-term changes and degree of disability the health conditions have caused over time.
Many veterans' advocates also believe that the medical exams for disability ratings conducted by VA doctors and staff are favorable to the VA rather than the veteran.