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Shinseki justifies Agent Orange decision

Shinseki justifies Agent Orange decision

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stood his ground before Congress, defending his decision to add three more illnesses to the list of 12 others presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange herbicides during the Vietnam War.

Shinseki, testifying Sept. 23 before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said he decided to give presumptive condition status to ischemic heart disease (IHD), B-cell leukemia and Parkinson's disease because scientific evidence from nine medical studies "more than satisfies the positive association standard of the 1991 Agent Orange Act." The decision is one both fought for and supported by The American Legion.

"These decisions were not made lightly, but based on our duty to faithfully execute the purpose of the Agent Orange Act," Shinseki said. "Our actions will be viewed as an example of our seriousness and commitment to America's veterans."

A July 2009 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) strongly established a connection between exposure to Agent-Orange dioxins and the onset of Parkinson's, B-cell leukemia and IHD. While Shinseki found the report's evidence for these three illnesses credible and compelling, he told the committee that he decided against adding hypertension as another presumptive condition because the report's case, "was less compelling in my view and still did not establish a positive association. I believe that these decisions, in all four cases, were consistent within the law."

Reminding committee members that the Agent Orange Act opened the door to more proactive policies for veterans illnesses, Shinseki said that - once he became convinced the three illnesses were connected to herbicides used in Vietnam - his mandate was clear.

"The statute therefore directed that I establish a presumption of service connection, without regard to the projected costs or the existence of independent risk factors," Shinseki said, adding that such determinations were not made lightly. "They were made in accordance with the legal responsibilities assigned to me in the Agent Orange Act ... No other course of action would have met the intent of the law."

Once the IOM report was released, the law allowed VA only 60 days to decide whether new presumptions were warranted. After reviewing the report's evidence and analyses, and after consulting with legal and medical experts at VA, Shinseki determined, "that the evidence concerning B-cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease met the positive association standard of the Agent Orange Act. Accordingly, VA proposed regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for those diseases."

Shinseki advised the committee that the exposure of U.S. forces to toxic chemicals and environments needs to be tracked much earlier. "Such tracking does not get easier or less complicated as time passes; early registration and surveillance of those exposed enables better treatment and rehabilitation, and allows us to make proactive decisions in mitigating future exposures.

"Early tracking, intervention, treatment, (and) rehabilitation equals better health for America's veterans. We must do better and we will," Shinseki said in closing.

 

 

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mditchf

October 15, 2010 - 4:36pm

It bothers me when families and Vietnam Vets are told that their problems are not connected with Agent Orange. After they die the VA decides that yes they are caused by Agent Orange. If the VA would be fair they would let the families have claims retroavtive.

mditchf

October 4, 2010 - 8:05pm

It makes me angry that after a serviceman has passed away they decide that he died from possible agent orange. Sometimes I think they hope that all those wjo were exposed to agent orange will die before they decide that their illness was caused from agent orange. My husband had PTSD, lung cancer and heart problems but was not able to get any help.

tadamoana

October 1, 2010 - 12:04am

In reference to Pete Morreale's post on this article, I can only offer support with no solid assistance. I identify with his struggle with my own. My exposure was on Guam in the very early 70's, and I have been ignored or even dismissed by the VA though I have been suffering and totally disabled since '93 with the current and older "presumptive's". Now that the feeding frenzy is afoot I have been brushed of by the BlueWater group as a burden to "their" personal legislation, and would overburden their goals. How in Gods name does the DOD and VA think we made the jungle and boonies stop growing long enough to make them assessible, for our purposes, "Weed=Be-Gone". I am sorry for your suffering and can only counsel with "keep moving forward", because one way or the other, this will be over very soon for those of us still able to talk and breath. One way or the other...usnavmag71@msn.com

grunt27

September 30, 2010 - 9:00pm

As far as the doubt concerning these diseases and AO, what about the illnesses caused by the side affects of PTSD. Shouldn't these be considered service connected illnesses as well. High level stress, drug and alcohol use can cause a variety of illnesses. Is anyone willing to open that can of worms. We are beginning to see the REAL costs of wars and "police actions".

macvrlamm

September 26, 2010 - 3:04pm

I do not belive that AO is the cause of all ills for Vietnam Era vets, now those in country Vietnam vets have a real claim here. And over the years there have been far to much passing the buck, with regards to the exposure of vets to these defolients of all strpes. The stall has been on since the late 60's and is continued to this day. I for one am feed up with the DENY DELAY DIE mentality of the VA and our goverment. It needs some kind of kick in the ass. This system that puts all the berdun of proof on the vet and not the government is to say the lest BS. I have freinds that have no proof of even being in the nam because there records were distroyed or lost over the years when our federal employees were maning the boat. The burden should be on the feds to prove other wise there the group that gave the go ahead to spray anything and anyone in the area.

pete morreale

September 24, 2010 - 2:03pm

I WAS IN PANAMA 1967 TO1968 AND WAS ASSIGED TO OPARTION POTLIND AND WAS USING AO AS WELL AS OTHER STUFF AS A DUTY SOLDER 57A10 AND WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT HOW TO GOD AGAINST THE STUFF WE WERE USING I NOW HAVE NON HOPKINS LYMPHOMA AND DIABETES AND NEUROPATHY IN MY FOOT MY CLAIMS DONE THROUGH THE DAV 2005 DEC STILL WANTING THE VA SAID THATS IN ADJUDICATION ANY HELP OR INFRO WOULD BE HELPFUL E MAIL AT PETEMORREALE@HOTMAIL.COM OR 7045856333 IN NORTH CAROLINE THANK YOU

tracyseaboltvaerrn

September 24, 2010 - 7:10am

I agree with Shinseki, we need a way to provide early detection and treatment for service members, who may have been exposed to harmful chemicals during service to our country. I am now seeing returning Vets with breathing problems, that you would not normally see. I have been doing some on-line research and have found that there were many "burn piles" while on assignment that have potentially released toxic chemicals that have been inhaled by service members. So far, I have not seen any way the VA is tracking the problem.

Terry Wood

September 23, 2010 - 5:04pm

Agent Orange is the root cause of every desease that Vietnam era vets have had.

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