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VA Adds Parkinson’s Diseases, Two Other Ailments to List of Agent Orange Illnesses

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More than 200,000 veterans could be eligible for disability payments and health care services under a new Agent Orange policy proposed this week by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA proposal adds three illnesses – B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease -  to the list list of illnesses presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange.

Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service.  This “presumption” simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.  According to The New York Times, the new Agent Orange policy will apply to some 2.1 million veterans who set foot in Vietnam during the war, including those who came after the military stopped using Agent Orange in 1970. It will not apply to sailors on deep-water ships, though VA says it plans to study the effects of Agent Orange on the Navy.

The decision to add B cell leukemias, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease to the roster of presumed Agent Orange illnesses brings the total number of ailments on the list to 15.  Other presumed Agent Orange illnesses include:

  • Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers, and
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

Agent Orange was widely used during the Vietnam War as a defoliant to remove enemy hiding places.     It contained one of the most toxic forms of dioxin, which has since been linked to some cancers. According to a VA press release, between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.  Many of those exposed to the toxin continue to suffer health problems.

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