On February 10th, seven of the country’s largest veterans organizations urged lawmakers in Washington DC to expedite veterans benefits for nearly 200,000 Vietnam-era veterans suffering from presumptive medical conditions linked to Agent Orange.
Currently, the list of conditions presumed to be caused by exposure to chemical herbicides, such as Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, does NOT include the following diseases: bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Any diseases or illnesses on the presumptive list lowers the amount of proof veterans need to provide in order to receive veterans benefits.
A seven-page letter was submitted and signed by the following veterans organizations – AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars – that criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for dragging its feet and undercutting scientific data that already exists.
The veterans groups said it was “alarming” that the administration had weighed the cost of the benefits against the veterans in need of assistance. The American Legion pulled its support, saying it agreed in principal but did not support all of the language used in the aforementioned letter.
The letter comes after Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, told senators that the VA wanted to take a closer look at whether hypertension, in particular, was caused by Agent Orange exposure. He said there’s doubt because the age demographic of Vietnam War veterans is at higher risk for the condition.
The VA has therefore decided to wait until the results of the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study are complete and analyzed, both of which will not be submitted until later this year.
In 2018, researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found for the first time that enough evidence exists to link hypertension to Agent Orange exposure. Researchers also determined there was “suggestive” evidence linking Agent Orange to hypothyroidism.
The veterans groups argued that the agency had tried to undercut the reports from the National Academies in the VA’s recent reports to Congress about this issue. The groups also raised concerns that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget had rejected the addition of three of the conditions because of their monetary cost.
The VA is currently treating Vietnam-era veterans for the listed conditions, including: 1,404 for Parkinsonism; 5,836 for bladder cancer; 15,657 for hypothyroidism; and 308,329 for hypertension.
The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.
Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/02/12/agent-orange-decision-delay-draws-criticism/