Public Service Announcement

Vietnam vets eligible for assistance with Agent Orange-related illnesses

Special health care and compensation benefits are available to the 2.6 million men and women who served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced in a recent public service message.

Those discharged during that period, regardless of where they served, are the largest group of veterans receiving VA health care and monthly disability compensation. Yet, a relatively small percentage of their service-connected disability claims are for illnesses scientists have listed as being associated with Agent Orange.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is concerned Vietnam veterans may regard a disease associated with the aging process (such as prostate cancer), or just another illness, rather than the result of their military service in Southeast Asia. The VA wants these Vietnam veterans to know that they may be eligible for compensation and health care for certain diseases associated with Agent Orange, the defoliant sprayed to unmask enemy hiding places in the jungles throughout Vietnam.

VA presumes that all military personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, and VA benefit law presumes that certain illnesses are a result of that exposure. This presumptive policy simplifies the process of claiming compensation for these diseases since VA forgoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began or was worsened during military service.

Based on clinical research, the following diseases are on VA's Agent Orange list of presumptive disabilities: chloracne, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, porphyria cutanea tarda, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larnyx and trachea), soft-tissue sarcoma, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy and prostate cancer. In addition, monetary benefits, health care and vocational rehabilitation services are provided to Vietnam veterans' children with spina bifida, a congenital birth defect of the spine.

Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war also are eligible for a complete physical examination. If a VA physician suspects a disease might be related to Agent Orange, VA will provide free medical care. Those who participate in the examination program become part of an Agent Orange Registry and receive periodic mailings from VA about the latest Agent Orange studies and new diseases being compensated under VA policies.

Vietnam veterans and their families can contact VA for more information about these benefits. For the Agent Orange registry physical examination, call a local VA hospital or clinic listed in the government pages of your phone book. To file a compensation claim for a current disability related to Agent Orange, veterans can call (800) 827-1000 for an application for or visit VA's Website at: http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov.

(BLE Editor's Note: This public service announcement was provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, Washington DC 20420.)

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers