Friday, June 11, 2010

VVA Calls for Support for Presumptive Agent Orange/Dioxin


Press Release

June 11, 2010

No. 10-14

Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146

Statement by VVA President John Rowan :

VVA Calls for Support of the Decision by VA Secretary

To Declare Presumptive Agent Orange/Dioxin


VVA Calls on the President and Congress to Fund Research Now,

And Not Wait for an Army to Die

( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) There have been reports in the media recently in which some, including Senator Jim Webb, seem to question the legitimacy of service-connected disability compensation for exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin on the battlefield, such as Type II diabetes mellitus and ischemic heart disease. Further, it appears that there is confusion on the part of some about how the process established by the Agent Orange Act of 1991 should and does work.

The facts of the matter are so clear that, after deliberation, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) restates our position which is dictated by those clear facts:

First, Public Law 102-4, the Agent Orange Act of 1991, was enacted to address a plethora of health issues in veterans that stemmed from our exposure to Agent Orange while serving in-country. Congress, in its collective wisdom, passed this legislation because of the severe impact exposure to dioxin was wreaking on the lives of tens of thousands of veterans.

Senator Webb is mistaken about the intent of the law, which is understandable, because Webb was not in the Congress at that time. By the same token, no Senator or Member of Congress suggested, at the time of passage, that there should be any arbitrary or artificial limit placed on diseases covered, or on the numbers of veterans who might be affected, and, hence, covered. Rather, a process was set up to seek the level of association, if any, between exposure and the onset of specific diseases. Just as no one today would even think that we, as a nation, would cease treating and compensating our troops and veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), simply because the incidence is far more prevalent among returning warriors than anyone might have imagined five years ago.

Second, we strongly support the actions of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in following both the letter and the spirit of Public Law 102-4, to conclude that the evidence analyzed by a distinguished panel from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and published in the 2008 Biennial Review of Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam was compelling enough to declare Parkinson’s disease, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease as service-connected presumptive due to Agent Orange for those in the military who served in Vietnam (and along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969).

Third, VVA can unequivocally state that the process set up by Congress under the Agent Orange Act continues to be the most objective and valid way of making decisions regarding environmental diseases of military service. These decisions should be scientific, not political. Any Secretary of the VA should adhere to the process, required by law, and follow the facts, as Secretary Shinseki has done.

Fourth, the evidence for inclusion of diabetes mellitus type II as a presumptive disease is very strong. It is true that people are more prone to develop type II diabetes as they age, but the facts of the matter are that Vietnam veterans are at least more than twice as likely to develop this disease as the non-veterans in our cohort group, when balanced for age, weight, exercise, and diet. The same is true of prostate cancer and other service-connected presumptive conditions.

This points, yet again, to the need for federal funding of additional research into the adverse health impacts on Vietnam veterans, on our children, and on our grandchildren, by respected independent scientific entities outside of the VA. This is just as evident today as it was twenty years ago. The clear need for such research is even more pressing today, given the number of Vietnam veterans who have died well before their time in the last twenty years, and the number who are continuing to die early because of the ravages resulting from exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin in Southeast Asia.

Lastly, there have been media reports that the amendment to Emergency Supplemental Appropriation by Senator Webb would delay the process, and thus delay the payment of justly due back compensation to affected veterans, pushing off the time when veterans who are owed back compensation actually will receive their entitled compensation. This simply is not the case. Neither action by Senator Webb nor anyone else has thus far caused any action that will slow down the payment of claims as soon as the VA can work though the public rule-making process to get this accomplished.

We urge all affected Vietnam veterans and eligible surviving dependents to file claims for the newly presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange: Parkinson’s disease, B Cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease. These diseases bring the total to 14 illness categories that entitle Vietnam veterans–and veterans who served along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969–to health care and disability compensation. VVA also contends that many Vietnam-era veterans were also exposed in their service elsewhere in Southeast Asia during the war, including in Thailand and Laos , and aboard Navy vessels off the coast of Vietnam , as well as certain military bases located in the continental U.S. and its territories.

Among the other diseases recognized by the VA as presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange are diabetes mellitus (Type 2), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, and respiratory cancers (of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea). Additional information about these and other presumptive diseases and long-term health care risks for veterans can be found at the Veterans Health Council web site,, and in the VVA Self-help Guide to Service-Connected Disability Compensation For Exposure to Agent Orange at



  1. To Whom it may concern:

    Shortly after my return from Vietnam in 1969, I started having heart problems. It started with episodes of atrial fibrillation, and progressed to a heart attack resulting in an angioplasty operation followed by two ablation surgeries, a maze procedure, and four way bypass surgery. To top it off I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008.

    Soon after my diagnoses I received benefits for my diabetes, but was denied benefits for my heart disease. I have always been a person who took care of himself, a runner, bicyclist, hiker, with good dietary practices all through my adult life. I have never smoked nor do I consume alcohol apart from an occasional glass of wine or a beer at a social event.

    My cardiologist told me that he saw Vietnam Veterans all the time with heart problems especially atrial fibrillation when he was in medical school in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He went on to state that it is a know medical fact that there is a connection between exposure to agent orange and heart disease, and any first year medical student is aware of the connection between heart disease and diabetes.

    The cost of these surgeries have left my wife and I on the verge of bankruptcy for years. Time I have lost from work because of recovery periods and heart problems can now be counted in years. Now I suffer from chronic PVC’s and recently had 5000 PVC’s in a 24 hour period.


  2. I filed a claim for heart disease due to herbicide exposure in 1992 and was denied in 1994. In 1992 the SSA awarded me full disability benefits after my first angioplasty, my by-pass surgery came 4 years later.In 2005 I was awarded a 10% service connection for heart disease as secondary to my SC-PTSD (agggravation). I have been fighting for a higher rate and EED for 18 years now. I have diabetes type II, hypertension, had thyroid cancer, part of my colon and intestines removed (diverticulitis), my gall bladder out, and my right cancerous kidney and adrenal gland removed 2 years ago. Three different times already a C/P examiner failed to quantify the percentage of my heart disease aggravated by stress, so it threw my claim into needless appeals that never seems to end. I just received a letter to report for a cardiac C/P exam and I've just about had it. The next thing the VA is going to do is judge this IHD by using their famous treadmill stress testing Met scoring which is a farce! Let's not forget the well respected news commentator Tim Russert who died of a fatal heart attack only 2 months after a thallium treadmill stress test. I hope this is the end of this nightmare.

  3. I say we start impeachment against Sen Webb as a tratior and enemy of the state. He has done nothing for the state of Virginia while carring out the duties if the Sec of State for Ms Clintion and trapsing all over SE Asia with his spouse drumming up contrats for Vietnam. He did get a 56 billion dollar bill passed that will in the long run be of benefit to his son who is in the militry. So the sooner we die off the better. There will be more money for SE ASIA and his family.

  4. My husband returned from Vietnam in 1969. In the 80's he was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
    In 1991 he had a heart attack at the age of 42. In 2001 he had triple bypass surgery. In June of 2009 he had his aortic heart valve replaced with a mechanical heart valve which requires taking warfarin (blood thinner) for the rest of his life. In December 2009 he had a brain bleed the size of a golf ball on the left side of his brain above his ear.

    Although he was approved for 20% disability for diabetes several years ago connecting heart disease and diabetes seems to be something that the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association can agree on but when VA finally makes the connection Sen. Webb wants to blame an aging population as the culprit. My husband was not old when all of this started. Yes, he is 62 now, and part of an aging society, but we will never know if all of these things would have happened had he not been exposed to Agent Orange during his military service in Vietnam. The facts are he was exposed and we can't turn back the clock on that fact.
    Sen. Webb should be ashamed of himself for turning his back on his fellow veterans!

  5. My husband, a Vietnam vet, had VA disability (initially filed for in 2006) rating of 80% (post-traumatic stress disorder,
    bilateral hearing loss, tinnitus, gunshot wound, and hemorrhoids.)and when diagnosed by VA with a fib in 2008 filed a claim for atrial fibrillation caused or aggravated by PTSD. He was on warfarin and in 2009 he suffered a massive stroke and died. Cause of death was acute cardiopulmonary arrest, non-traumatic
    intracranial hemorrhage, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension. I've reopened his claim for a-fib caused or aggravated by PTSD(based on new rules that allow me to "stand in his shoes") and have filed a claim for widows benefits. So far, my claim has been denied. Recently, I've resubmitted both claims, and also submitted a claim for heart disease based on newly added agent orange conditions. My question is where I can get more information on the correlation between a fib and PTSD and/or agent orange. Also, have any of you been successful in your claims related to a fib. Thanks for any info you can share.

  6. How long after being exposed to agent orange
    could someone develop some problems.

  7. On the internet 01/20/2011 the medical diagnosed
    And in reference: Agent Orange exposural was as
    noted; Thirty years(30) and illness included as
    such Mental disorders/PTSD, etc. Hypertension.
    Please note these facts to the VA Hampton,VA
    Veteran Hospital and the Veterans Affairs.

    Thank You!
    C.L. Scott sr