VA's Liabilities Grow As Agency Expands List Of Diseases Linked To Agent Orange

Politico looks at a new fight brewing over Agent Orange and how it affects programs for Vietnam Veterans. "It's a world turned upside-down from decades ago when returning soldiers had to fight to get attention for deadly lymphomas linked to the herbicide. Now the frailties of men in their 60s — prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease — lead the list of qualified Agent Orange disabilities, and the result has been an explosion in claims — and the government's liability. The latest expansion, approved by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in October, adds ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's and will cost at least $42 billion over the next 10 years. The VA estimates 349,000 individuals are already receiving Agent Orange disability benefits and that number could soon reach 500,000 — or one out of every four surviving Vietnam veterans by the VA's count." But even some of the strongest supporters of veterans programs, including Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., are questioning the move. Webb has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Sept. 23 (Rogers, 8/30).

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