Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced pending new rules that would add three diseases to the list of maladies for which veterans would be compensated without having to prove the disease was service connected.
Once the new rules are put into effect, the VA will assume that Vietnam veterans with B-cell leukemias, Parkinson’s disease or ischemic heart disease are eligible for compensation because of exposure to dioxin, a highly-toxic residue present in Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam.
The rule change is expected to benefit as many as 200,000 Vietnam veterans, including many of the estimated 75,000 Vietnam vets living on Long Island.
Agent Orange contains TCDD, a long-lived polychlorinated dioxin that is considered among the most toxic man-made chemicals ever produced, according to the National Academies of Science. That particular dioxin is associated with cancers, skin disorders, immune system problems, reproductive abnormalities, birth defects and other maladies.
Similar herbicides used in the spraying campaign had even higher concentrations of TCDD, including Agent Purple and Agent Pink.
In all, some 19 million gallons of defoliants were released during a nine-year spraying campaign that ended in 1971.
Although the change is not set, VA officials say veterans with these three diseases should file for compensation immediately so they can get benefits from the date of application once the rule becomes final.