VA's Spina Bifida health care benefits program
The Agent Orange Benefits Act of 1996 allows for benefits for children of Vietnam Veterans who have spina bifida. VA offers the Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program (SBHCBP) for children of Vietnam Veterans and certain Korean War Veterans who have been:
- diagnosed with spina bifida in all forms except spina bifida occulta, and
- are considered eligible for a monetary award by VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration.
The SBHCBP provides VA-financed health care benefits. As a part of this program, VA is the exclusive payer for services, and there are no out-of-pocket health care expenses for beneficiaries. The program also provides health care services and supplies beyond those related to spina bifida, monetary allowances, and vocational training and rehabilitation for enrolled beneficiaries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1,500 U.S. residents are born with spina bifida each year. The incidence fell after a CDC campaign on folic acid supplementation started in 1992. Currently, about 166,000 U.S. residents have spina bifida. As of September 2020, over 1,000 family members are covered under the VA benefits program for this.
There is a lack of scientific evidence showing a higher rate of spina bifida in offspring of Vietnam deployed Veterans as compared to non-deployed Veterans. One National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus report felt there may be an association, but subsequent reports have not found spinal bifida or other birth defects to be associated with Vietnam deployment.
VA continues to review research related to birth defects and possible associations to deployment.
Learn more about the SBHCBP, operated by VA’s Office of Community Care, at https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/dependents/spinabifida/index.asp and at https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/282.