Thousands of veterans have died or suffered from illnesses likely caused or worsened by Agent Orange exposure.
Now, after multiple delays from the Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran service organizations (VSOs) are calling on President Donald Trump to put an end to the wait.
"The continued delayed action by VA is causing additional suffering for Vietnam veterans and their families. We urge you to take action and to end the wait, needless suffering and disappointment for an entire generation of veterans," VSOs, including Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Fleet reserve Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America and AMVETS, wrote in a letter to the president Monday.
Last year and again just last month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he planned to delay his decision on adding four illnesses to the list of diseases VA covers related to exposure to the toxic herbicide. The U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of multiple herbicides over Vietnam from 1961 to 1971, including Agent Orange.
Wilkie said he and other VA leaders disagreed with scientists' findings that link Agent Orange exposure to bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. He plans to wait for two more VA studies to conclude and publish before making a decision, pushing things until late 2020, at the earliest.
Expanding the list of health conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure could provide disability pay and health benefits to more than 83,000 veterans, to the tune of $15.2 billion, according to VA.