Vietnam veterans are losing patience waiting for VA compensation for Agent Orange associated diseases. And if VA decision-makers are listening to the likes of federal official Jim Samspel, many veterans wonder whether their conditions will ever make the Agent Orange presumptive diseases list.
But news of new Agent Orange diseases may be just around the corner.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin may announce within a matter of months whether the VA will add five new medical conditions to its presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange list.
Shulkin will also decide whether the VA will extend Agent Orange coverage to Blue Water Navy veterans and veterans stationed in the Korean demilitarized zone during the Vietnam War.
VA Considers Adding Five More Diseases to Agent Orange List
The last time a new disease was added to the Agent Orange presumptive diseases list was in 2010, when acting VA Secretary Eric Shinseki added Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia to the list. Shinseki cited data supplied by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) – now the National Academy of Medicine – that showed evidence of association between Agent Orange and the three diseases.
Now, the VA is considering adding bladder cancer, parkinsonism (Parkinson-like symptoms), hypothyroidism, stroke and hypertension to the Agent Orange diseases list after a scientific research analysis by the IOM found evidence of Agent Orange association with these diseases.
Veterans across the nation are growing restless with the wait on these decisions. Prior to October 2015, the VA had to follow strict deadlines for interpreting IOM data and deciding whether to add a disease to the Agent Orange presumptive list. Congress has since dropped those statutory limitations, so there is no guarantee that the decision will be made soon, but reports suggest Shulkin will decide on or before November 1.
VA Official Sampsel Says Agent Orange Associated Diseases Are “Media Hype”
Skepticism surrounding the VA’s shirking Agent Orange claims are not new. Many veterans feel the VA continues to deny scientific evidence of disease caused by Agent Orange and put off decisions on new diseases for as long as possible to keep costs low.
If the VA is indeed choosing to prioritize money over the lives of our nation’s veterans, they were right in hiring Jim Sampsel.
Federal official Sampsel helps advise the VA on which Agent Orange claims to approve. In a March VA Advisory Committee meeting discussing whether the five new diseases should be added to the Agent Orange list, Sampsel stated, “Primarily, it’s media hype.”
Sampsel told VA advisory committee members that Vietnam veterans had very little exposure to Agent Orange because planes “did not spray when there were American troops in the area.”
In referring to the IOM data associating Agent Orange with cancers and other diseases, Sampsel stated, “Those are basically the background facts. But when it comes to Agent Orange, facts don’t always matter. Unfortunately, when it comes to this Agent Orange, we have to have a lot of denials.”
Sampsel is also helping the Department of Veterans Affairs decide whether to compensate the 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange offshore. These veterans claim they used water potentially contaminated with Agent Orange for drinking, bathing and cooking.
In discussing potential coverage for Blue Water Navy veterans, Sampsel stated that TCDD is “destroyed quickly in sunlight and open air.”
When confronted with the fact that the VA already covers Air Force Reserve personnel who worked on C-123 aircraft 10 years after Agent Orange was no longer used, because of exposure to the residual TCDD left on the planes, Sampsel said, “One scientist from Harvard or somewhere said that dried, solidified TCDD never stops emanating molecules into the air. Hardly anybody bought that at the time, but IOM went with it.”
Sampsel added, “The vast majority of scientists don’t think that anybody gets any harmful effects from something that’s in the soil, buried in the soil.”
If the VA is trying to cut veterans’ compensation for Agent Orange, Sampsel is the right man to be advising them.
Veterans Win Claims for Agent Orange Benefits – Even for Diseases Not on The List
We, on the other hand, are optimistic that the VA will expand its list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases to include Blue Water Navy veterans and compensation for new diseases. The scientific evidence is strong. But remember, whether or not a disease is listed among the VA’s Agent Orange presumptive diseases list, you can still win benefits for your illness.
Despite the difficulty in getting compensated for exposure to Agent Orange, it can be done – as long as you have medical expert opinion and a thorough review of the scientific literature to back up your claim.
Our veterans’ disability lawyers with Gang and Associates continue to win claims and appeals for veterans exposed to Agent Orange with the help of leading U.S. medical experts and scientific research analysis.
If the VA or Board of Veterans Appeals has denied your claim for a disease related to Agent Orange exposure, call our office. Learn how we can help you win veterans disability benefits. 888.878.9350 or Use This Online Form