Wednesday, October 14, 2009

VA may ease rules for Vietnam vets

The Veterans Affairs Department said Tuesday that it plans to make it easier for Vietnam War veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide who suffer from certain medical conditions to qualify for VA benefits.

The conditions are B cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease. The veterans with those conditions under the VA's proposal would have presumptive status, which would make it easier to obtain benefits. The rule changes were first reported in The New York Times.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki made the decision based on findings in a study by the Institute of Medicine, the VA said.

About 200,000 veterans might seek benefits under the proposed change, the VA said. More than 2 million servicemembers were potentially exposed to Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate trees, between January 1965 and April 1970.

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