This article by Leo Shane III originally appeared on Military Times, the nation's largest independent newsroom dedicated to covering the military and veteran community.
In March, Veterans Affairs officials said they may have a decision on adding four new diseases to the list of Agent Orange presumptive benefits eligibility by the start of the summer. Five months later, they still haven’t moved ahead.
“They told us they were ready to go, and we haven’t gone anywhere,” said Rick Weidman, executive director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America. “It feels like they just don’t want to spend any money on this.”
Vietnam veteran advocates feel a sense of urgency because the the youngest who served there are in their early 60s.
Last November, researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine announced they had compiled “sufficient evidence” linking hypertension, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms with exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam and surrounding countries in the 1960s and 1970s.
They recommended adding the conditions to VA’s existing list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a designation which allows veterans to more quickly and easily qualify for disability benefits.