VA prepares to expand Agent Orange related claims for Vietnam veterans

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The Washington Post: "The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing for more than 150,000 Vietnam War veterans to apply for benefits in the next 18 months thanks to new regulations making it easier to compensate for health problems caused by exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange. Changes set for publication in Tuesday's Federal Register could result in payouts of about $42 billion in the next decade, VA said. But the department still could face resistance from lawmakers, including Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), concerned with how the department will pay out claims for ailments that are common among elderly Americans anyway, despite military service. Under the new regulations, the VA will presume that veterans who served in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, were exposed to Agent Orange and will add three medical conditions -- hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease -- to its list of disabilities presumed to have a connection to exposure to the herbicide" (O'Keefe, 8/31).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "Because of worries about Agent Orange, about 270,000 Vietnam veterans — more than one-quarter of the 1 million receiving disability checks — are getting compensation for diabetes, according to Department of Veterans Affairs records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. More Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes than for any other malady, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss, or general wounds. Tens of thousands of other claims for common ailments of age — erectile dysfunction among them — are getting paid as well because of a possible link to Agent Orange. … Lawmakers and federal officials who have reservations about the spending are loath to criticize a program that helps service members. The officials have largely ignored a 2008 report in which a group of scientists said the decision to grant benefits to so many on such little evidence was 'quite extreme'" (Baker, 8/31).

VA Secretary Erik K. Shinseki wrote about the administration's position on the ruling in The White House Blog.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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