In a hearing on Tuesday at Capitol Hill, Senators said that the
Veterans Affairs Department (VA) should actively support veterans
in their claims regarding the illnesses caused by environmental
exposures and contaminants during their tours of duty.
From the deserts of Arabia to South of China Sea, from Iraq to Camp Lejeune,
North Carolina, and places elsewhere; health-related issues are common
for service members. While working, soldiers might be exposed to
pollutants that have led to a deterioration in their health. A USA Today
report claims that some people in the VA department have
inappropriately used their positions of authority and financial
benefits, which questions their accountability over society.
Despite these hurdles, the VA continues its “passive-aggressive
rebuttal of scientific findings” and disapproves the claim regarding
compensation and healthcare, accused Richard Burr, Senator, R-N.C. But
Burr is encouraged by VA Secretary Bob McDonald who is taking an
initiative to improve the department’s better understanding of
"Our government rewarded them for their service by negligently
poisoning them,” says Burr. He feels that it is appalling how the United
States government has mistreated the families. This was in reference to
1 million residents of Camp Lejeune who consumed contaminated drinking
water at the installation from the mid-1950s through 1987.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. have sponsored a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act,
that will grant benefits to hundreds of thousands of sailors in the
waters off Vietnam who served on destroyers, aircraft carriers and other
large Navy ships, and who have illnesses associated with exposure to
the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.
A Military Times report said that in 2011, the Institute of Medicine
released a study saying that there were not adequate evidence or
information whether these "blue water" veterans were exposed to Agent
Orange. While some agree regarding the compensation, others feel that
the sailors were not directly exposed to toxic elements, and therefore,
claims regarding their illness are not valid.
VA considers that quite a few birth defects in Vietnamese children
are service-connected, including spina bifida for male vets’ children
and 18 health conditions for children of mothers who served in that
The Veterans Benefits Administration is taking initiatives to improve
its determinations for the claims related to toxic exposures. This will
include contracting with the Institute of Medicine and other scientific
bodies to study the issues in the best possible way, said David
McLenachen, VA acting deputy secretary for disability assistance.