By Debbie Gregory.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering the addition of several diseases to the list of health conditions thought to be connected with Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange was one of the herbicides used by the U.S. military to defoliate rural/forested land in Vietnam, depriving the Vietcong guerrillas of food and cover, and clearing sensitive areas, such as base perimeters.
The VA began recognizing diseases associated with herbicide exposure in Vietnam beginning in 1991
A VA working group is working to determine whether bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms should automatically make a Vietnam veteran eligible for VA disability benefits and healthcare.
There is a list of 15 diseases already in place, which include: Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, type-2 diabetes mellitus, light chain amyloidosis, ischemic heart disease, chronic B-cell leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease. Also on the list is spina bifida in the children of veterans, with 1,153 descendants receiving benefits.
Some 1 million Vietnam veterans are enrolled in the VA health system, and based on one year’s data, 5,484 veterans have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, 15,983 suffer from hypothyroidism and approximately 1,833 have Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Additionally, 307,324 Vietnam veterans in the VA healthcare system have high blood pressure.
VA recommends that veterans who have an illness they believe is related to Agent Orange exposure file a claim; they are considered on a case-by-case basis if the illness is not on the presumptive condition list.
Should new diseases be added to the list, the regulation would go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
If a veteran dies of a condition determined to be a presumptive condition after the veteran’s death, VA will provide dependency and indemnity compensation benefits to eligible spouses, children and parents of that veteran.