Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agent Orange cases may cost billions more

This commentary appeared in The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By Mike Baker
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Because of a possible link to Agent Orange, about 270,000 Vietnam War veterans - more than a quarter of the 1 million receiving disability checks - are being compensated for diabetes, according to Department of Veterans Affairs records.

More Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes than for any other malady, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss or general wounds.

Tens of thousands of other claims for common ailments of age - erectile dysfunction among them - are getting paid as well because of a possible link, direct or indirect, to Agent Orange.

And taxpayers may soon be responsible for even more: VA said Monday that it will add heart disease, Parkinson's disease and certain types of leukemia to the list of conditions that might be connected to Agent Orange. The agency estimates that the new rules, which will go into effect in two months unless Congress intervenes, will cost $42 billion over the next 10 years.

this commentary closes with...

Agent Orange was a dioxin-laden defoliant that was sprayed over jungles to strip the Viet Cong of cover. American forces often got a soaking, too, and Agent Orange was later conclusively linked to several horrific health ailments, including cancers. So Congress and VA set up a system to automatically award benefits to veterans, who needed only to prove that they were in Vietnam at any time during a 13-year period and later got one of the illnesses connected to Agent Orange.

The VA, interpreting that 1991 law and studies that indicated potential associations, has over time added ailments that have no strong scientific link to Agent Orange. The nonprofit Institute of Medicine's biennial scientific analysis of available research, to which the VA looks for guidance, has repeatedly found only the possibility of a link between Agent Orange and diabetes, and that even a chance of a correlation is outweighed by factors such as family history, physical inactivity and obesity.

- Associated Press


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