VA Must Pay Agent Orange Victims

http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,143021,00.html?ESRC=eb.nl

AP 7/20/07 SAN FRANCISCO – An appeals court chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday and ordered the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.”The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame,” the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

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It was not immediately known how much the department would have to pay under the order or how many veterans would be affected.

VA spokesman Phil Budahn said late Thursday that officials were reviewing the ruling, and declined further comment.

The VA agreed in 2003 to extend benefits to Vietnam vets diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, known as CLL. U.S. troops had sprayed 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of South Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and ’70s to clear dense jungle, and researchers later linked CLL to Agent Orange.

Related Agent Orange News and Information Links

But the VA did not re-examine previous claims from veterans suffering from the ailment, nor did it pay them retroactive benefits, which was at the heart of the latest dispute.

Thursday’s opinion was on a technical matter involving whether a lower court had properly interpreted a landmark agreement in 1991 on benefits, stemming from a class-action lawsuit originally filed in 1986.

The appeals court sided with veterans groups who said the veterans were entitled to retroactive benefits.

“We would hope that this litigation will now end, that our government will now respect the legal obligations it undertook in the consent decree some 16 years ago, that obstructionist bureaucratic opposition will now cease, and that our veterans will finally receive the benefits to which they are morally and legally entitled,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court’s opinion.

Richard Spataro, a lawyer with the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said Thursday’s ruling could finally halt years of legal battles – if the VA does not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Spataro said if researchers link other disabilities to Agent Orange the decision will prevent the VA from denying retroactive benefits for those veterans, too.

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3 Responses to “VA Must Pay Agent Orange Victims”

  1. olotliny Says:

    Wounded War Vets Suing VA
    Associated Press | July 24, 2007
    WASHINGTON – Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

    The class-action lawsuit against the department, known as the VA and headed by Jim Nicholson, set to be filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts – from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying out benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

    Video: Injured Iraq War Vets Sue VA Head

    VA spokesman Matt Smith said Monday he could not comment on a pending lawsuit. But he said the agency is committed to meeting the special needs of Iraq war veterans.

    “Through outreach efforts, the VA ensures returning Global War on Terror service members have access to the widely recognized quality health care they have earned including services such as prosthetics or mental health care,” he said. “VA has also given priority handling to their monetary disability benefit claims.”

    The lawsuit comes amid intense political and public scrutiny of the VA and Pentagon following reports of shoddy outpatient care of injured soldiers at the flagship U.S. military hospital in Washington the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere.

    “Unless systemic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families, and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the health care delivery system,” the complaint states.

    It asks that a federal court order the VA to make immediate improvements that would speed disability payments, ensure fairness in awards and provide more complete access to mental health care.

  2. Barbara J. Jackson Says:

    What I am wondering is how many soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange will be deceased before they ever recieve any benefits they very well deserve.My father will be 84 his birthday and to this day November 22nd 2007, he hasn’t seen a dime. Is there anyone out there helping these people or are they trying to wait till they are all dead. I personally dont see that as a thank you for the men and women who have served our country. For some reason this era of soldiers have been swept under the rug and we are quick to help out the more recent soldiers. Why is that?

  3. olotliny Says:

    Dear Barbara,

    Sincerest gratitude to your father for his service to our country. My son and his friends tell me that the military teaches servicemen/women never to say you don’t know but rather: “you’ll find out.”

    The first article has some links that will hopefully lead you and others to some connections that will hopefully be beneficial. The best source of information would probably come from fellow Veterans especially near your home/state, the local VFW, DAV, AM Vets, American Legion, VA Center…

    As to why it appears that today’s service men/women are being helped out immediately rather then brushed aside (although-that still occurs-consider the many who are falling through the cracks into homelessness after the initial welcome has receded-or never occurred and the many who have to fight to get their benefits even today for injuries sustained within this decade, and year..currently re-enlistment bonuses are being reduced/retracted if the servicemen come home wounded and have their tour of duty cut short due to injuries (!) in addition to that–many are required to repay for equipment and uniform damages sustained to them when they are attacked/wounded (that is unthinkable too.)

    I think it comes from the direct involvement and concentrated efforts of many American citizens on all levels and the Veterans themselves-especially those who served in Vietnam.

    I have met many Vietnam Veterans who have near devoted all their energies/focus on being there for today’s generation of servicemen/women–so that they would never go through what they went through–they know directly/personally and can empathize, guide, encourage and relate to the dynamics (short and long term)-with being engaged in battles-returning home -while their friends/buddies didn’t or did wounded-dealing with that, they know and keep deep inside/quiet from others-the daily triggers of anxiety and depression (post traumatic stress).

    Many families have sons/daughters serving and they know personally the hardships that they endure and the realities of active duty service.
    We have our Veterans and those who are currently serving to thank directly for our freedoms. They do deserve our respect and thanks. As to what we can do-that is within the individual-if we all did what is within our conviction/heart and awareness/mind–just imagine the possibilities.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)


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