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VA to short-cut some Agent Orange rulings

Email   Print   Share By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
October 22, 2009 | Living
WASHINGTON – A new Department of Veterans Affairs ruling will soon relieve Vietnam veterans suffering from three specific illnesses from the burden of proving their ailments are linked to Agent Orange exposure in order to receive VA health care and disability payments.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s decision, announced Oct. 13, establishes a service connection for Vietnam vets stricken with hairy-cell leukemia and other B-cell leukemias, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease, VA chief of staff John Gingrich told the American Forces Press Service. Shinseki made the decision based on a recent report by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. The report cited new scientific studies pointing to a strong connection between the illnesses and Agent Orange exposure.

Shinseki determined that evidence was compelling enough to establish a presumption that affected veterans’ illnesses are service-related, Gingrich said.

This determination will short-cut the process for them to receive services through what Shinseki called “a world-class health care system,” as well as monthly disability payments.

But before the ruling takes effect, it must be published in the Federal Register and opened for final comment, Gingrich explained. He predicted that the process would be completed early next year.

It’s unclear exactly how many of the 2.1 million Vietnam veterans the ruling will affect, Gingrich said. If 10 percent have the presumed illnesses, that could result in some 200,000 new VA claims.

Agent Orange, named for the orange-colored barrels in which it was stored, was sprayed widely during the Vietnam War to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy.
 
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