Veterans like 73-year-old Dan Tolly, exposed to herbicides while serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War, face a knockdown drag out when they apply for VA benefits.
After a years-long struggle, Dan got quite the surprise this weekend in his mailbox. The Department of Veterans Affairs finally approved his claim that his heart disease and cancer were caused by exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange while he served at Ubon Air Force Base. Not only was he awarded disability benefits for life, he got a check from the VA retroactive to 2016.
“I’ve never seen a check like that,” Dan said. “I looked at the amount and it was more numbers than I expected.”
Like Dan, tens of thousands of Americans served in Thailand during the war. 8 On Your Side profiled Dan’s case in a series of reports in September 2019. We forwarded Dan’s records to the VA and asked that it review Dan’s case further.
For years, the military denied it sprayed Agent Orange in Thailand. Of late, the VA has awarded disability benefits for herbicide exposure to personnel who could prove they worked on base perimeters, where the military now concedes it used tactical herbicides.
Dan assembled missiles for F-4 Phantoms. The shop was about 100 feet from the perimeter.
“I walked through the perimeter gate everyday – back and forth, going to work,” Dan said.
“That stuff was mixed with petroleum, so anybody walking across that perimeter would pick it up on their shoes, carry it into the mess halls, the barracks,” explained John Wells, the director of litigation for Military Veterans Advocacy.