90 thousand U.S. Vietnam War Navy veterans may soon receive compensation for the affects of Agent Orange after the Department of Veteran Affairs dropped its appeal of a recent court ruling. In January the VA was ordered to provide disability and health care benefits for these veterans, which ended a years long battle for compensation for the illnesses veterans claimed were the result of exposure to Agent Orange.
After the unanimous passing of a House bill that mandated the VA provide benefits to “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans”, the VA claimed that there was no scientific proof that the veterans had been exposed to Agent Orange. For many years, veterans groups claimed that the seawater had been affected by the toxin, and that the distilling system in navy ships exposed the sailors to dioxin.
The bill never got past the Senate, however. Two Republican senators claimed that before legislating compensation, the government should wait for the results of a study being conducted at the time.
Cancer and diabetes are just two of the diseases known to be linked to Agent Orange exposure. After Blue Water Navy veterans with related diseases sued for compensation, an appeals court in January ruled in their favor. Before this, only veterans who served on the ground had been eligible for benefits related to Agent Orange.
The position taken by the VA in the fight was that if the dangerous herbicide had gotten into the water, it would have been too diluted to have caused any harm. They also claimed that many of the Blue Water Navy veterans were sick with illnesses that come naturally with age, and not necessarily because of exposure.
While the failed Blue Water Navy Veterans act had a budget of $1.1 billion to provide compensation, the VA believes that the actual cost will be roughly 5 times that amount. VA secretary Robert Wilkie recommended that the Justice Department drop the case, and claims that the VA has already begun serving over half of those 90,000 claimants as well. Up next, there may be hearings on other toxins that may have caused illnesses in veterans, such as burn pits.
Agent Orange has been linked to many deadly and debilitating diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, heart disease, myeloma, prostate and respiratory cancers, and many more. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is also know to be linked to exposure, but already, any veteran who contracts that disease is automatically provided compensation if they have served in the military for more than 90 days.