Sunday, June 13, 2010

VVA Calls for Support of the Decision by VA Secretary

VVA Calls for Support of the Decision by VA Secretary
To Declare Presumptive Agent Orange/Dioxin and
VVA Calls on the President and Congress to Fund Research Now, And Not
Wait for an Army to Die

( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) There have been reports in the media recently in
which some, including Senator Jim Webb, seem to question the
legitimacy of service-connected disability compensation for exposure
to Agent Orange/Dioxin on the battlefield, such as Type II diabetes
mellitus and ischemic heart disease. Further, it appears that there is
confusion on the part of some about how the process established by the
Agent Orange Act of 1991 should and does work.

The facts of the matter are so clear that, after deliberation, Vietnam
Veterans of America (VVA) restates our position which is dictated by
those clear facts:

First, Public Law 102-4, the Agent Orange Act of 1991, was enacted to
address a plethora of health issues in veterans that stemmed from our
exposure to Agent Orange while serving in-country. Congress, in its
collective wisdom, passed this legislation because of the severe
impact exposure to dioxin was wreaking on the lives of tens of
thousands of veterans.

Senator Webb is mistaken about the intent of the law, which is
understandable, because Webb was not in the Congress at that time. By
the same token, no Senator or Member of Congress suggested, at the
time of passage, that there should be any arbitrary or artificial
limit placed on diseases covered, or on the numbers of veterans who
might be affected, and, hence, covered. Rather, a process was set up
to seek the level of association, if any, between exposure and the
onset of specific diseases. Just as no one today would even think that
we, as a nation, would cease treating and compensating our troops and
veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), simply because
the incidence is far more prevalent among returning warriors than
anyone might have imagined five years ago.

Second, we strongly support the actions of VA Secretary Eric K.
Shinseki in following both the letter and the spirit of Public Law
102-4, to conclude that the evidence analyzed by a distinguished panel
from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and
published in the 2008 Biennial Review of Veterans and Agent Orange:
Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam was compelling enough to
declare Parkinson’s disease, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart
disease as service-connected presumptive due to Agent Orange for those
in the military who served in Vietnam (and along the demilitarized
zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969).

Third, VVA can unequivocally state that the process set up by Congress
under the Agent Orange Act continues to be the most objective and
valid way of making decisions regarding environmental diseases of
military service. These decisions should be scientific, not political.
Any Secretary of the VA should adhere to the process, required by law,
and follow the facts, as Secretary Shinseki has done.

Fourth, the evidence for inclusion of diabetes mellitus type II as a
presumptive disease is very strong. It is true that people are more
prone to develop type II diabetes as they age, but the facts of the
matter are that Vietnam veterans are at least more than twice as
likely to develop this disease as the non-veterans in our cohort
group, when balanced for age, weight, exercise, and diet. The same is
true of prostate cancer and other service-connected presumptive

This points, yet again, to the need for federal funding of additional
research into the adverse health impacts on Vietnam veterans, on our
children, and on our grandchildren, by respected independent
scientific entities outside of the VA. This is just as evident today
as it was twenty years ago. The clear need for such research is even
more pressing today, given the number of Vietnam veterans who have
died well before their time in the last twenty years, and the number
who are continuing to die early because of the ravages resulting from
exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin in Southeast Asia.

Lastly, there have been media reports that the amendment to Emergency
Supplemental Appropriation by Senator Webb would delay the process,
and thus delay the payment of justly due back compensation to affected
veterans, pushing off the time when veterans who are owed back
compensation actually will receive their entitled compensation. This
simply is not the case. Neither action by Senator Webb nor anyone else
has thus far caused any action that will slow down the payment of
claims as soon as the VA can work though the public rule-making
process to get this accomplished.

We urge all affected Vietnam veterans and eligible surviving
dependents to file claims for the newly presumptive diseases
associated with Agent Orange: Parkinson’s disease, B Cell leukemias,
and ischemic heart disease. These diseases bring the total to 14
illness categories that entitle Vietnam veterans–and veterans who
served along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969–to
health care and disability compensation. VVA also contends that many
Vietnam-era veterans were also exposed in their service elsewhere in
Southeast Asia during the war, including in Thailand and Laos , and
aboard Navy vessels off the coast of Vietnam , as well as certain
military bases located in the continental U.S. and its territories.

Among the other diseases recognized by the VA as presumptive to
exposure to Agent Orange are diabetes mellitus (Type 2), non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma, prostate cancer, and respiratory cancers (of the lung,
bronchus, larynx, or trachea). Additional information about these and
other presumptive diseases and long-term health care risks for
veterans can be found at the Veterans Health Council web site,, and in the VVA Self-help Guide to Service-
Connected Disability Compensation For Exposure to Agent Orange at


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