VA officials extend ‘Agent Orange’ benefits to more veterans

Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON — Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to as Agent Orange.

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and B-cell leukemias such as hairy-cell leukemia.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues today. Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

In practical terms, veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness do not have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This “presumption” simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits, according to VA officials.

The secretary’s decision brings the number of presumed illnesses to 15 recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will,” Shinseki added. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence.”

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA’s “presumption” rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are: