Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Offshore Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange should get benefits, Colorado Senate says

The state Senate passed a resolution Monday meant to highlight the lack of benefits for some Vietnam veterans possibly exposed to Agent Orange.
Sponsored by state Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, the non-binding resolution encourages Congress to pass legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate last year.
The resolution argues that during the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 22 million gallons of Agent Orange and other harmful herbicides that later were linked to causing disabling diseases.
Congress passed the federal "Agent Orange Act of 1991" to presumptively recognize eligible military personnel as those who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. That status gave access to disability compensation and medical care to veterans diagnosed to herbicide-related illnesses.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs originally allowed the presumption to include all veterans of Vietnam but in 2002 made a revision that required a veteran prove "that he or she had set foot on the land or entered an internal river or stream," to receive benefits.
The change made those benefits virtually inaccessible for veterans who couldn't prove they had "boots on the ground," namely Navy and Marine veterans who served off the coast or in bays and harbors.
John Rossie, executive director for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, said those offshore military personnel were within miles of the coastline and came in contact with Agent Orange either by air or from river run-off into the ocean that often was desalinated and used as drinking water.

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