The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure. In order to try to gain a better military vantage point, Agent Orange, which we now know is a highly toxic cocktail of herbicide agents, was widely sprayed for defoliation and crop destruction purposes all over the Vietnam War Battlefield, as well as nearby nations. It was also stored on U.S. vessels and used for vegetation clearing purposes around U.S. bases, landing zones and lines of communication.
Currently, VA requires Vietnam veterans to prove "foot on land" in order to qualify for the presumptions of service-connection for herbicide-exposure related illnesses afforded under current law. This issue has been the subject of much litigation and on May 8, 2008, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld VA’s overly narrow interpretation. Congress clearly did not intend to exclude these veterans from compensation based on arbitrary geographic line drawing by VA.
The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 is intended to clarify the law so that every service member awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. If enacted, this bill will make it easier for VA to process Vietnam War veterans’ claims for service-connected conditions that scientists have conclusively linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War and that are identified in current law. With this legislation, Congress will leave no doubt that the "Blue Water Navy" and all combat veterans of Vietnam are intended to be covered and compensated; thus ensuring that these veterans will receive the disability benefits they earned and deserve for exposure to Agent Orange.
Naturally, this has excited much discussion.
VNvets blogspot notes:
"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. (MORE)
But VA Watchdog calls the act "Woefully Inadequate" because, as currently written, the act:
"...doesn't include those veterans exposed in nearby countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. He also forgets about other areas through which large quantities of Agent Orange were shipped (and used) such as Guam." (MORE)
Read for yourself, and follow the bill, here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-6562
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Update June 27, 2009: the legislation has been reintroduced as Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 (HR 2254, 111th Congress)
- Call your Congresscritter (the local office is probably best since the DC office gets swamped) and ask whether they have sponsored this bill and if not, why not
- Join the HR2254 Facebook Cause to stay current with the issue and tell others what you learned from contacting Congress. Technology makes it easier to get our representatives moving!