Based on a review by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki decided there is not enough evidence linking Agent Orange exposure and illnesses in blue-water Navy veterans. (Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden / Defense De)
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The Veterans Affairs Department has bad news for blue-water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War era who believe they have service-connected disabilities related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.
A review by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, which included looking at transport logs, interviewing veterans and reviewing medical research, failed to find enough evidence that sailors who served offshore during that conflict should be presumed to have been exposed to the toxic defoliant.
In a formal announcement published Wednesday in the Federal Register, VA says there "is insufficient evidence to determine whether Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange-associated herbicides during the Vietnam War."
Without that evidence, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has decided not to grant those veterans the same presumption given to other veterans than some medical problems are the result of their service in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam veterans who served on the ground and the so-called "brown-water Navy" veterans who served on inland waterways don't have to prove they were exposed to Agent Orange to qualify for disability compensation and health care if they have a disease associated with exposure to the defoliant.
Several types of cancer, liver dysfunction, diabetes and Parkinson's disease are all scientifically linked to possible exposure to herbicides and their contaminants.
Blue-water Navy veterans may still apply to VA, and their claims will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine exposure to the herbicide, VA officials said.
Although VA says that the evidence "available at this time does not support establishing a presumption," that does not mean such evidence will never be found.