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agent orange

January 14, 2020 - 11:27am

On Monday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finally prioritize the health and well-being of Upstate New York veterans and finally end the years-long delay of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) effort to add additional diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

In Western New York, there are approximately more than 32,000 Vietnam-era veterans. Statewide, there are more than 240,000 of them.

2016 National Academies report found suggestive evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism were associated with veterans’ service, as well as clarified that veterans with “Parkinson-like symptoms” (Parkinsonism) should be considered eligible under the presumption that Parkinson's disease and the veterans' service are connected.

Following this report, former VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that he would add these conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list in the near future, which would allow Vietnam War-era veterans stricken by these illnesses to receive additional health care benefits, disability compensation, and care benefits to surviving spouses and dependent children and parents.

But that announcement never came after OMB blocked the move.

In addition to the failure to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism on the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list, the VA has also yet to act on a 2018 National Academies report that found sufficient evidence of association between exposure to herbicides and hypertension.

Even though Schumer secured a provision in the recently passed budget deal requiring the VA to issue a report to Congress in consultation with OMB on the delay in adding these conditions to the presumptive conditions list, he said this is not nearly enough. He urged the agencies to take the necessary steps to ensure that the over 240,000 New York veterans, who risked their lives to defend their country, receive the health care and benefits they need and deserve.

Just last week, Schumer called recently confirmed OIRA Administrator Paul Ray directly and implored him, as the chief overlooking all federal government regulations, to immediately prioritize our veterans’ healthcare, take a personal interest in expanding their health benefits and add these conditions to the Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions List.

“It’s unfathomable that the administration is refusing to do right by our nation’s veterans, including the more than 240,000 New York veterans that bravely served during the Vietnam era, and has unilaterally blocked the VA from expanding healthcare benefits to those exposed to Agent Orange,” Senator Schumer said.

The Right Thing to Do

“After years and years of kicking the can down the road, it is high time for the federal government to accept the substantial proof linking bladder cancer, hypertension, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to Agent Orange exposure, and add these conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

"It is absolutely incumbent on the administration to do everything within its power to clear a path for the VA, add these conditions to the list of Agent Orange illnesses, and finally allow veterans who are currently suffering access to the healthcare and benefits they rightly deserve; it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s the very least we owe the brave New Yorkers who served and defended our country.”

In March of last year, Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the recommended new presumptive conditions would be added within 90 days, which also never happened.

Furthermore, this past October, email communications between the VA and the White House revealed that the delays were at the behest of the OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and White House advisors, who were reportedly concerned about the potential cost of adding diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

Emails explaining the decision to hold off on adding the conditions to the presumptive conditions list can be found here.

Exposure to Herbicide 'Agent Orange' Inflicts 'Presumed Diseases'

Schumer explained that per the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA automatically accepts that if a Vietnam Veteran physically served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975, it is probable that the veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent like Agent Orange.

Furthermore, the Act established a list of “presumed” diseases that the VA stipulates are caused by Agent Orange exposure. Therefore, if a veteran served in Vietnam at any time between 1962-1975 and is diagnosed with one or more of the diseases VA recognizes as service connected, the VA will compensate the veteran and his or her family.

However, even though there is scientific evidence linking Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, hypertension and hypothyroidism to Agent Orange exposure, they are not currently on the VA’s list of recognized conditions.

Schumer said that is absolutely crucial that the roughly 240,000 Vietnam-era veterans in New York State receive the healthcare benefits they need and deserve.

“Adding these diseases to the Agent Orange Presumption List would only benefit the brave service members who were exposed to this chemical during the Vietnam War and are suffering from its harmful effects,” Veterans Outreach Center Executive Director and Army veteran Laura Stradley said. “Veterans Outreach Center stands with our veterans, and we support the laws that allow our brothers and sisters to access much-needed healthcare, services and support.”

April 12, 2010 - 5:15pm
posted by Diane M. Dole in batavia, agent orange, vietnam war.

agentorange02.jpg

Kenneth Herrmann Jr. (on the right above) is an associate professor of Social Work at SUNY Brockport and an Army Vietnam veteran. The Batavia resident was stationed there between 1968-1969. He's had many great achievements over the years, including publishing three books: "I Hope my Daddy Dies," "Mister, I'm Nobody's Child," and "Lepers & Lunacy: An American in Vietnam."

But perhaps his greatest achievement is his involvement in the Danang/Quang Nam Fund -- also known as Agent Orange Children, which he founded in 2001. He currently serves as its president and executive director.

Its sole purpose is helping families and, more importantly, Vietnamese children affected by the notorious chemical dropped on vast areas during the war.

He received a Certificate of Merit by the Danang People's Committee for his humanitarian effort, hard work and involvement with Agent Orange Children. The Web site offers a wealth of information about the fund and Agent Orange, including a paper Professor Herrmann wrote (it can be found under Links and Resources).

The U.S. Government used the herbicide Agent Orange, a very toxic dioxin, because it killed foliage and undergrowth so that the enemy soldiers would be visible. Unfortunately, not only did Agent Orange strike the plants and enemies, but innocent civilians as well. None were spared.

The environmental pollutant killed not only the trees, but poisoned the soil as well. The food and wildlife were contaminated and when the Vietnamese people ate the food, they ingested the chemical, too. Once Agent Orange entered into the human body, the chemical altered DNA, passing down generation after generation, a host of mental and physical deformities. Because it transformed their DNA, people may never get well, according to scientists who've studied the effects of Agent Orange.

"Twenty million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed," Herrmann said. "To put that in perspective, if a person takes a glassful of Agent Orange and dumps it on the front yard, the Environmental Protection Agency would come in and destroy all the homes within a half-mile radius, dig three feet down to remove the contaminated soil and tape off the area for the next 30 years as hazardous."

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