Since March 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been weighing whether to expand Agent Orange benefits to Vietnam vets with bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, as well as other ailments. It keeps missing its own deadlines to act.
For years, Vietnam vets and their widows have been pushing the VA to extend benefits to those exposed to the toxic herbicide and later stricken with glioblastoma. The VA has said no, but advocates hope the agency will now revisit the issue.
At a meeting in March, a lead analyst in the VA’s compensation service was critical of the media, scientists and the VA’s own administrative tribunal for taking positions that differ from his. The VA said his comments “did not fully or accurately reflect VA's position” but also said his quotes were being taken out of context.
The suit filed by ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot claims the VA has stonewalled in response to requests for documents, including those sent and received by David Shulkin, the president-elect’s pick to be VA secretary.
The Department of Veterans Affairs must decide whether to add new diseases to its list of conditions presumed to be linked to Agent Orange. It also faces calls to compensate naval veterans and those who served along the Korean demilitarized zone.
For decades, Vietnam veterans have suspected that the defoliant harmed their children. But the VA hasn’t studied its own data for clues. A new ProPublica analysis has found that the odds of having a child born with birth defects were more than a third higher for veterans exposed to Agent Orange than for those who weren’t.
A Washington legislator had two children after her husband returned from the Vietnam War. One lacks sight in an eye. The other died of cardiomyopathy at age 21. “We don’t have this in the family,” she said. “The veterans would all say, ‘You know it’s probably Agent Orange.’”
The Veterans Administration refused to release what it had learned about possible links between birth defects and exposure to Agent Orange. ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot found a novel way to obtain the information under procedures historically used for scientific research by academic scholars.
More than four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, research is still showing the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange. The latest findings: An association between exposure and high blood pressure.
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