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Byline: CORY REISS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON -- Bill Kline fought a battle 35 years after his service in Vietnam when the Department of Veterans Affairs gave him a 40 percent disability rating for colon cancer that the agency links to Agent Orange exposure.
On July 27, about two years after the Sarasota veteran submitted his claim, he won an administrative review that yielded a 100 percent disability rating, Kline said. That means more compensation and better access to medical care. But to Kline, who has another case pending, the cause of the mistake by a low-level claims processor was obvious.
"They simply didn't know their own rules," he said.
The number of vets like Kline who argue with the outcome of their claims, mostly for disability benefits, is surging -- from less than 44,000 in fiscal 2001 to more than 114,000 in fiscal 2003, according to …