Anthony Principi, former secretary of veterans affairs, warned last week that disabled veterans and their families will suffer if Americans “lose faith in the integrity” of the VA disability compensation system.
“And the surest way for that to happen,” he told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “is for the American people to believe that large numbers of veterans are being compensated for illnesses that may not be the result of their military service. That’s the crux of the issue we’re all grappling with.”
Thankfully, for hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans in line to be compensated for three additional diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure, few senators seemed ready to grapple with that issue any time soon.
The hearing that many veterans feared boosted confidence that, in the months ahead, they will be found newly qualified for disability payments. But it also revealed that up to $4 billion a year more in compensation will be paid in part because VA and Congress have mishandled this volatile issue.
Studies cut short
As witnesses explained, the government cut short or never sponsored a host of potential Agent Orange studies that might have better informed on levels of exposure, or the relative incidence of herbicide-linked conditions among Vietnam veterans versus other populations.
Congress in turn left the 1991 Agent Orange law on automatic pilot and with such ambiguous guidance that VA secretaries are strapped to make presumptive disease decisions with confidence. The result is uncertainty now about the fairness of some Agent Orange claims for veterans and taxpayers.
Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/10/02/2523985/hearing-exposes-flaws-in-agent.html#ixzz11bqk7dd8