Proposal to Expedite Agent Orange Health Claims
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
A new proposal will make it easier for veterans of the Vietnam War to claim that certain conditions are the direct result of their exposure to Agent Orange. This will pave the way for tens of thousands of veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, and B cell leukemias to receive health care services and monthly disability checks from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Agent Orange was used to destroy crops and clear jungle canopy during the Vietnam War to make it easier to see enemy action. The herbicide, which was the most widely one used during the conflict, however, contains one of the most toxic forms of dioxin. Agent Orange has since been linked to several cancers.
The VA already recognized more than a dozen conditions, such as Hodgkin’s Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and prostate cancer, as being “presumptively” connected to Agent Orange exposure. But for diseases without this presumptive status, veterans are required to provide evidence of a direct link of their ailment to their service in Vietnam. This requirement often leads to rejections of claim applications and to prolonged appeals.
The VA has long come under criticism from Congress and veterans’ groups for protracted delays in the processing of disability claims. The proposal was championed by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a Vietnam veteran himself, based on findings in a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine. Secretary Shinseki remarked “Veterans who endure a host of health problems deserve timely decisions.”
VA officials estimate that approximately 200,000 veterans may seek benefits under the proposal. A cost estimate, however, will not be available until after the policy undergoes public review and is published in its final form.
Some researchers and doctors argue that diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes and prostate cancer are as likely to be caused by aging, lifestyle or genetic predisposition as by exposure to Agent Orange, and that the expansion of the benefits are based on weak science, given the lack of studies on Vietnam veterans.
Mr. Shinseki’s decision, however, is a victory for Vietnam veterans’ groups, many of which have been seeking to add a number of conditions to the list of diseases presumptively linked to Agent Orange.