10 Things The VA Wants You To Know About Agent Orange

Photo courtesy of the VA website.

Photo courtesy of the VA website.

The official blog for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VAntage Point, has produced a “Top 10 List” of important information all veterans should know about the herbicide Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War. It was sprayed on trees, vegetation, forests and waterways along boarders in Cambodia, Laos, and in South Vietnam.

The list is below, and you can read the full details on today’s VAntage Point.

  1. Agent Orange was a herbicide and defoliant used in Vietnam.
  2. Any Veteran who served anywhere in Vietnam during the war is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
  3. VA has linked several diseases and health conditions to Agent Orange exposure.
  4. Veterans who want to be considered for disability compensation must file a claim.
  5. VA offers health care benefits for Veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during military service.
  6. Participating in an Agent Orange Registry health exam helps other Veterans and the VA.
  7. VA recognizes and offers support for the children of Veterans affected by Agent Orange who have birth defects.
  8. Vietnam Veterans are not the only Veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange.
  9. VA continues to conduct research on the long-term health effects of Agent Orange.
  10. VA contracts with an independent, non-governmental organization to review the scientific information on Agent Orange.

The VA blog entry is written by Dr. Ralph Erickson, a 32-year Army Veteran of the Gulf War (1990-91) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003) who has also served as Commander of The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; Command Surgeon, US Central Command; and Director, DoD Global Emerging Infections and Response System (DOD-GEIS).

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Congressman Pushing for Speedier VA Benefit Claims

Florida Cong. Jeff Miller (R) being interviewed at a south Texas VA summit.

Florida Cong. Jeff Miller (R) being interviewed at a south Texas VA summit.

Despite the VA’s goal of clearing the disability claims backlog by 2015, the chairman of the House Comittee on Veterans Affairs said that’s still not good enough.

It currently takes 260 days on average to process a disability benefits claim. The VA plans to cut that to 125 days for processing within two years.

Florida Cong. Jeff Miller told Florida Today that batting.500 is “pretty damn good” for baseball but it’s not a good enough for veterans.

The  backlog is attributed to several items such as the complexity of injuries suffered by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Also in 2010, the VA expanded eligibility for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange which swelled the number of claims.Miller said it was the “right thing” to do.

“But I don’t think VA planned,” Miller said. “They had an idea of the numbers of people that would be coming through the system, and that’s where I fault VA.”

It’s estimated that 260,000 Vietnam veterans were added to the benefits backlog of an estimated 1 million total claims. The VA currently processes about 1 million claims a year.

Military Base Housing Adapts for Wounded Warriors

Retired Army Capt. Alvin Shell was one of several advisers on the design of the Wounded Warrior Home Project in Fort Belvoir, Va. Soon 19 more innovative homes will be built to accommodate wounded active-duty personnel. Photo by: Kainaz Amaria/NPR

Pair a few severely injured soldiers  with a renowned architect confined to a wheelchair and a design firm with a Vietnam Veteran as a partner and you get the team that designed the new wounded warriors’ housing at Army’s Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

National Public Radio took a tour of the new adaptive housing. It was created by architect Michael Graves who was left unable to walk after a bad infection and the design firm IDEO with partner David Haygood who  served in Vietnam and now lives with Parkinson’s Disease after being exposed to Agent Orange.

“When I was interviewed, I rolled in, in my wheelchair,” Graves says, “and I thought I had a pretty good chance of beating out the competition, because I was with the Wounded Warriors.”

From automated door openers to adjustable stove heights, the innovative home addresses a wide range of disabilities. There are obvious fixes such as wider hallways and doors to accommodate wheelchairs. But, there also are subtle design changes to help with the invisible wounds or emotional scars.

Huge windows and French doors are everywhere, so a resident can observe the surroundings, inside and out. That’s important for soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress.

View a slide show of the adaptive housing and listen to the NPR story HERE.

VA Fast Track for Agent Orange Retroactive Benefits

Photo courtesy of the VA website.

A year ago, the Veterans Affairs Department expanded its list of diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange to include Ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease,  hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias.

Since then, about 89,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors have received benefits exceeding $2 billion. But, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is encourage other potentially eligible Vietnam veterans to apply soon.

Those potentially eligible for Agent Orange Claims:

  • exposure based on duty or visitation in Vietnam or its inland waterways between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
  • exposure along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971
  • exposure due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases within and outside the United States

Claims related to the new conditions can be filed for fast track at the Agent Orange Claims Processing System.

Information about presumptive diseases and disability compensation is available at the VA Agent Orange website. Or you can call the VA’s Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387 and press 3.

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