This morning, VA announced it is extending service-connected presumptions for Agent Orange exposure to cover Parkinson's Disease, ischemic heart disease, B cell leukemias, and hairy cell leukemia. VA's announcement is available on the AMVETS National Web site.
AMVETS, which represents thousands of Vietnam veterans around the country, still views the Agent Orange debacle as a major blemish for the VA and DoD, but AMVETS leaders say they are proud to see a fellow Vietnam veteran, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, taking the issue seriously.
"It wasn't until 1991 that the government finally recognized the horrific effects of Agent Orange on our veterans," said AMVETS Executive Director Jim King, a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam. "At this point, it was already far too late for some. But as more information has become public about the dangerous defoliant over the years, the veterans' community has made strides in care for those who were exposed. With today's announcement, Secretary Shinseki further demonstrated his commitment to ensuring that Vietnam veterans receive the care and compensation they deserve for the horrible conditions that resulted from Agent Orange exposure."
Today, 15 health conditions are presumed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure, meaning that Vietnam veterans suffering from these conditions are entitled to service-connected compensation and health care through VA without needing to provide additional evidence--an often daunting task for veterans so far removed from a conflict.
AMVETS leaders, recognizing similarities between Agent Orange and several potential maladies facing today's veterans, are keeping a close eye on issues such as burn pit-related respiratory issues, certain cancers, and traumatic brain injuries to ensure that today's veterans do not need to wait decades for proper care and acknowledgment.