RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

AGENT ORANGE EQUITY 1 August 2008

Posted by Service Officer on July 31st, 2008

On 23 JUL House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) held a press conference to announce the introduction of H.R. 6562, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008. The bill restores equity to all Vietnam veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange. It would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure. From 1991 to 2002, the VA granted hundreds, if not thousands of disability claims filed by Navy blue water veterans suffering from one of the many diseases that VA recognizes as related to Agent Orange exposure. These benefits were awarded based on VA rules providing that service in the waters offshore Vietnam qualified the veteran for the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. In FEB 02 VA did an about face and required veterans to have ‘actually served on land within the Republic of Vietnam … to qualify for the presumption of exposure to’ Agent Orange. As a result, all pending and new disability claims filed by Navy blue water veterans for an Agent Orange-related disease were denied unless there was proof that that the veteran actually set foot on Vietnamese soil. In addition, the VA began to sever benefits that had been granted to Navy blue water veterans prior to the 2002 change in VA rules.

 

In order to try to gain a better military vantage point, Agent Orange, which we now know is a highly toxic cocktail of herbicide agents, was widely sprayed for defoliation and crop destruction purposes all over the Vietnam War Battlefield, as well as nearby nations. It was also stored on U.S. vessels and used for vegetation clearing purposes around U.S. bases, landing zones and lines of communication. Currently, VA requires Vietnam veterans to prove “foot on land” in order to qualify for the presumptions of service-connection for herbicide-exposure related illnesses afforded under current law. This issue has been the subject of much litigation and on 8 MAY, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld VA’s overly narrow interpretation. Congress clearly did not intend to exclude these veterans from compensation based on arbitrary geographic line drawing by VA.

If enacted every service member awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. It will make it easier for VA to process Vietnam War veterans’ claims for service-connected conditions that scientists have conclusively linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War and that are identified in current law. Chairman John Hall who leads the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the subcommittee with jurisdiction over these issues stated, “With this legislation, Congress will leave no doubt that the ‘Blue Water Navy’ and all combat veterans of Vietnam are intended to be covered and compensated; thus ensuring that these veterans will receive the disability benefits they earned and deserve for exposure to Agent Orange. This is the cost of war. We asked these brave men and women to fight for us and serve their country, and it is a grave injustice that they have had to wait this long for treatment. We must place care of our soldiers among our top priorities. This applies for all past, present, and future conflicts.” [Source: HCVA Bob Filner News Flash 23 Jul 08 ++]

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