Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans are being compensated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for illnesses the agency says are related to Agent Orange, as Associated Press reporter Mike Baker found. On the face of it, that might not be particularly surprising. Agent Orange has been convincingly linked to cancer and a number of other ailments. But, and here’s the interesting bit, the illnesses most Agent Orange-exposed veterans are being compensated for – things like diabetes and erectile dysfunction – have never been authoritatively linked to the defoliant.
Because of worries about Agent Orange, about 270,000 Vietnam veterans — more than one-quarter of the 1 million receiving disability checks — are getting compensation for diabetes, according to Department of Veterans Affairs records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.
More Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes than for any other malady, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss or general wounds.
Tens of thousands of other claims for common ailments of age — erectile dysfunction among them — are getting paid as well because of a possible link, direct or indirect, to Agent Orange.
Not only that, but the list is growing. The VA has announced it will add chronic B cell leukemias, Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease to the list of conditions that it will “presume to be related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.” This means even more common, aging-related illnesses will be covered by the VA, an expensive proposition.
The agency estimates that the new rules, which will go into effect in two months unless Congress intervenes, will cost $42 billion over the next 10 years.