Richard T. Riehle
posted on January 02, 2018 18:38
The military used herbicides during the Vietnam War to clear foliage from the jungles and base camps of Vietnam. The heavy foliage provided excellent cover for the enemy. Herbicides were also used to kill crops to diminish the enemy’s food supply. Exposure to these herbicides was later determined to pose a health risk to service members. Because of these risks, Congress eventually enacted laws providing benefits to those who were exposed if they subsequently developed certain diseases associated with the exposure. Because of the impossibility of determining which service members were exposed to what levels of toxicity, Congress decided that veterans who served in Vietnam would be presumed exposed to the harmful herbicides. Likewise, if a veteran was exposed, and then diagnosed with certain diseases, the government would concede that the disease was related to the exposure. These presumptions result in the award of VA benefits, such as disability compensation, health care, etc.
When Congress enacted these laws, it did not limit potential benefits to those veterans who served in Vietnam. If a veteran served in an area other than Vietnam, such as Thailand or Korea, but was nonetheless exposed to the same herbicide agent as used in Vietnam, then he or she is to be awarded the same benefits as would a Vietnam veteran for the diseases associated with such exposure. But if the veteran did not serve in Vietnam, VA regulations currently provide no presumption of exposure for that veteran. Instead, the law mandates that a veteran show as a factual matter that he or she was as likely as not exposed to an herbicide agent like those used in Vietnam. With these mandates, VA has instituted a systematic process that restricts the law and ensures that otherwise qualifying veterans and their families are denied benefits. VA should afford the same presumption of exposure to Thailand veterans that it affords to Vietnam veterans because the same herbicides agents were used in Thailand.
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