As the year 2016 comes to a close and 2017 gets ready for its debut, one of the most asperous legacies of the Vietnam War – the use of Agent Orange – that high powered weed killer with such high expectations but with such dire unintended consequence will continue to dominate the attention of the VA with much controversy and acrimony.
Agent Orange and its relationship with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans has been featured on this podcast many times in the past. For years that special group of Vietnam Veterans have been seeking assistance for its many members who are suffering from diseases that have been recognized as be caused by exposure to the dioxins found in Agent Orange from the VA. The VA has remained adamant in its policy of refusal toward the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans as the advocates for benefits continue their struggle for equity in benefits.
The new year that will bring a change in National leadership, offers encouragement to the advocates for equity. A story on the ProPublica website titled: Long List of Agent Orange Decisions Awaits VA in 2017 that that was produced by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica, and Mike Hixenbaugh of The Virginian-Pilot offers insight into the upcoming forks in the road the VA will approach in the near future.
One is whether to expand the list of diseases that are presumed to be linked to Agent Orange. Currently the VA recognizes 14 health conditions, including various cancers that are caused by exposure to Agent Orange. A federal panel of scientific experts said there is now evidence to suggest that Agent Orange exposure may be linked to bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. It also confirmed, as previous experts have said, that there is some evidence of an association with hypertension, stroke and various neurological ailments similar to Parkinson’s Disease. Despite new evidence of linkage, if past performance continues the VA will drag its feet as much as possible and hide behind funding excuses.
Another biggie is whether to make naval veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam eligible for benefits. this is the crux of the matter for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.
Next is: Whether to extend coverage to service members who served along the Korean demilitarized zone during the Vietnam War and who say they were exposed, as well.
Last but definitely not least is the question of whether veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange can affect their descendants. This is without a doubt the most hideous of the lurking hazards related to exposure to Agent Orange.
Our country owes its veterans a solemn obligation of assistance when those veterans get sick as a result of something the country did while they were serving their country.