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VA Sec. Shinseki Defends Expanding Agent Orange Benefits

Eric Shinseki
Eric Shinseki

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki defended an expansion of benefits under the 1991 Agent Orange law against a Senate panel with its eye on trimming the budget in congressional testimony Sept. 23.

VA recently added heart disease, B-cell leukemia and Parkinson’s disease to a list of “presumptions” under the Agent Orange law. The legislation, passed in 1991, makes it easier for Vietnam veterans to file disability claims if they are diagnosed with an ailment from a particular list prescribed by the law.

Agent Orange was an herbicide heavily used during the Vietnam War.

The AP reported that most members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee supported the move, but some members of Congress have objected to the expansion of the list because of the skyrocketing costs of extending benefit payments.

Shinseki, who said his determinations “were not made lightly,” defended the additions as erring on the side of providing benefits to veterans even though in the case of heart disease not all diagnoses of the ailment are related to a veteran’s service, according to a report in the Navy Times.

“My determination that there is a positive association between herbicide exposure and ischemic heart disease was based solely upon evaluation of the scientific and medical evidence and application of the statutory standard prescribed by the Agent Orange Act,” Shinseki said.

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