Delays for Agent Orange benefits continue

Two years ago, David Shulkin Veterans Affairs Secretary added bladder cancer, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and hypothyroidism to the list of diseases assumed to be caused by Agent Orange. Now, thousands of veterans are still waiting on benefits for these illnesses.

According to an article published by Military Times, “Heavily redacted emails and briefings released recently to former Army Spc. Jeff O’Malley, of Pearland, Texas, show Shulkin made the decision sometime before Oct. 3, 2017 — a move that would have given ailing veterans faster access to disability compensation and health benefits. But the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including Director Mick Mulvaney, and other White House officials objected, according to the documents. While the specifics of OMB’s opposition were redacted, legible portions show that that the office believed the scientific evidence supporting the proposed additions was limited and it had concerns about the budgetary impact of the expansion, as well as any adverse effects on the existing disability benefits program.”

Documents identify some 83,000 veterans that suffer from at least one of the three illnesses. For these veterans, the wait for benefits has been extremely frustrating. Retired Army Sgt. Major John Mennitto wrote for the Military Times saying, “The VA seems to drag their feet on these types of issues in hopes we’ll all die out before they make a decision,”

Almost a year ago, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) concluded that there was enough evidence to link hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) to exposure Agent Orange. According to sources, an excess of 300,000 Vietnam veterans signed up for health care through the VA for high blood pressure.

In March, Dr. Richard Stone the executive in charge of Veterans Health Administration told Congress he hoped to release a decision on new Agent Orange presumptive conditions within 90 days. Now, more than 6 months later, veterans continue to wait for a decision on whether or not they are entitled to benefits.

For veterans who served on Navy ships within a 12-mile mapped range of the coast, the VA will begin processing benefits claims applications for blue water Navy veterans beginning Jan. 1.

To read more about this news affecting veterans exposed to Agent Orange, click HERE.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability