Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Agent Orange still haunts Iowa Vietnam vets

Veterans waiting longer for aid as health problems persist 

IOWA CITY — Unlike warmly welcomed veterans of earlier and later wars, Vietnam vets got the parting gift that keeps on giving: Agent Orange — a plant defoliant that mistakenly included the carcinogen dioxin.
Nearly 40 years after the war’s end, disability claims for often-deadly ailments caused by the ubiquitous toxic spray continue to mount, as do wait times for disposition of disability claims.
Though it would be difficult to confirm with government statistics, the number of veterans suffering Agent-Orange-related afflictions almost certainly exceeds the more than 358,000 U.S. military personnel killed or wounded in combat with the enemy during the Vietnam War.
“We track things by the condition itself, not by the cause of the condition,” said Randal Nollen, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.
“The number one population that we handle for disability claims is Vietnam veterans with Agent Orange-related ailments,” ahead of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Don Tyne, director of the Linn County Veterans Affairs Office.
During the past eight months, Tyne said his office has helped more than 1,000 Vietnam veterans apply for disability benefits.
Tyne said the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs has 7,000 pending disability claims, with an average wait for disposition of 18 months.
“This is the longest wait period since I’ve been here. Ten years ago it was 90 days,” Tyne said.

No comments:

Post a Comment