Agent Orange - Vietnam Veterans Benefit From Agent Orange Rules, Compensation and Pension Service

They are society's leaders. They run businesses; direct organizations; hold political office. In their mid-50s, they are at the height of their social and economic power, earning more than others in their age group. Yet, with their success, they can't escape the inevitable health concerns of a graying population.

They are Vietnam veterans, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is concerned they may regard diseases associated with aging, such as prostate cancer, as just another illness rather than as the result of their military service in Southeast Asia.

VA wants these Vietnam veterans to know that they may be eligible for compensation and health care for certain diseases associated with Agent Orange, the defoliant sprayed to unmask enemy hiding places in the jungles throughout Vietnam.

Special health care and compensation benefits are available to the 2.6 million men and women who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975, only 3,300 of whom remain in uniform today. Those discharged during that period are the largest group of veterans receiving VA health care and monthly compensation.

Yet a small percentage of their disability claims are for illnesses scientists have listed as being associated with Agent Orange. VA presumes that all military personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, and federal law presumes that certain illnesses are a result of that exposure. This so-called "presumptive policy" simplifies the process of receiving compensation for these diseases since VA foregoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began or was worsened during military service.

Based on clinical research, the following diseases are on VA's Agent Orange list of presumptive disabilities: chloracne, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, porphyria cutanea tarda, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx and trachea), soft-tissue sarcoma, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy and prostate cancer. A regulation is being developed to add diabetes mellitus.

In addition, monetary benefits, health care and vocational rehabilitation services are provided to Vietnam veterans' offspring with spina bifida, a congenital birth defect of the spine. A new law authorizes health care and monetary benefits to children of female veterans who served in Vietnam for certain additional birth defects. Those additional benefits under the new law will not be payable to the beneficiaries until Dec. 1, 2001.

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