Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) February 7, 2017 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must tackle a long list of decisions about the effects of Agent Orange and veterans’ eligibility for benefits. A key issue is whether the department will add new conditions to its list of diseases and health problems presumed to be linked to the pesticide.
Agent Orange was sprayed to destroy vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War. ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot have joined forces to investigate the toxic chemical’s effects on Vietnam veterans and their families, as well as their struggles to obtain VA benefits.
“Rather than waiting for the problem to simply disappear, the VA should pay close attention to the vast research that has been conducted about the devastating effects of Agent Orange,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “It is likely that the exposure could have also impacted the descendants of service members. Seeking benefits from the VA should not be this difficult for affected veterans and their families.”
Many Vietnam veterans are fighting the VA for compensation for medical conditions believed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, proving exposure and harm has been challenging for veterans and their widows. Many widows do not have access to their husbands’ full service histories or experience dealing with the VA.
Currently, a veteran can gain eligibility for VA disability payments by proving their service in Vietnam and showing they have one of the 14 ailments linked to Agent Orange exposure, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. In March 2016, a panel of federal researchers claimed there is enough evidence to connect Agent Orange exposure to several conditions not on the VA’s list. These include hypothyroidism, stroke, bladder cancer, hypertension and other Parkinson’s Disease-like neurological diseases.
However, the VA may be reluctant to include the additional illnesses to its list of Agent Orange exposure-related medical conditions due to the potential expenses involved. For example, the chances of hypertension increase with age, and anyone with the ailment who entered Vietnam could become eligible for VA benefits.
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