VA wants all veterans exposed to Agent Orange to apply for benefits

Published 12:10 am Monday, August 24, 2015

By Rick Johnson

Rowan County Veteran Services

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam in March of 1965.

More than 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam conflict. Many who survived are fighting diseases the U.S. government now recognizes were caused by a very powerful toxic chemical used in the jungle war zone.

Since 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized a list of diseases, cancers and illnesses caused by the chemical Agent Orange. The VA is now making a renewed push to ensure everyone knows about the benefits available to veterans sickened by Agent Orange.

A variety of illnesses are on the list, including, but not limited to: Type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s diseases, non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and Ischemic heart disease.

Many Vietnam veterans aren’t aware of the Agent Orange presumptive diseases. Furthermore, some veterans choose not to go to the VA for their treatment or some veterans have never thought to apply. Yet other veterans aren’t sure how to apply.

Claiming a disability from exposure to Agent Orange is an expedited claims process since the illnesses are “presumed” to be connected to Agent Orange exposure, meaning Vietnam veterans don’t have to prove an association between their medical problems and their military service as it relates to exposure to Agent Orange.

Any veteran or family member who might fit any of these categories should call the Rowan County Veteran Service Office at 704-216-8138.

More Agent Orange Exposure Potentially Revealed

Marine Corps veteran Lt. Col. Kris Roberts is the first veteran known to have won compensation for exposure to Agent Orange while stationed at MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, and now he is urging the military to come clean about what really happened at the air base.

For the first time in VA compensation history, the U.S. government has awarded compensation to the ailing former marine at the center of allegations that the defoliant Agent Orange was dumped on Futenma Air Base in Okinawa.

On Aug. 10, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals ruled that Roberts, chief of maintenance at the installation in Okinawa in the early 1980s, had developed prostate cancer due to “exposure to hazardous chemicals.” The presiding judge based the decision on evidence including medical reports, buddy statements and “photographs of barrels being removed from the ground.”

According to publicly available Department of Veterans’ Affairs records, more than 200 U.S. vets believe they were poisoned by Agent Orange while serving in Okinawa. Their sicknesses include multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease and peripheral neuropathy — illnesses for which the Department of Veterans’ Affairs compensates Americans exposed to defoliants in Vietnam, some areas of Thailand and the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Any military member stationed at MCAS Futenma, and who later developed any of the presumptive illnesses, should contact the Rowan County Veteran Service Office at 704-216-8138.

The presumptive illnesses are listed below.

  • AL Amyloidosis — A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias — A type of cancer which affects white blood cells.
  • Chloracne(or similar acneform disease) — A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 — A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.
  • Hodgkin’s Disease — A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease — A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain.
  • Multiple Myeloma — A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue
  • Parkinson’s Disease — A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset — A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure.
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda — A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Prostate Cancer — Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.
  • Respiratory Cancers(includes lung cancer) — Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas(other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma) — A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.


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