SIDNEY – A legislative measure to fully indentify military veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant, Agent Orange, has a strong local advocate.
Ed Ball, Executive Director of the Shelby County Veterans Service Commission, has gathered data for a long period of time seeking benefits for those he feels are being shut out of veteran’s benefits due their rightful share. He claims that currently more than 90,000 surviving servicemen should qualify for benefits that are being denied.
Attention to this effort continues to grow. His findings are now before federal and state officials, and will soon be distributed to state commission directors. (See accompanying story)
The social media world has endless listings regarding Agent Orange. As with any topic, the authenticity of the information found online can be questioned at times. The burden is clearly on the consumer to interpret such information.
To better explain Agent Orange and its impact, the SDN has provided the information below from the website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at www.publichealth.va.gov.
• Agent Orange is a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 in the Vietnam War to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover.
• More than 19 million gallons of various “rainbow” herbicide combinations were sprayed, but Agent Orange was the combination the U.S. military used most often. The name “Agent Orange” came from the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored.
• Heavy sprayed areas included forests near the demarcation zone, forests at the junction of the borders of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam, and mangroves on the southernmost peninsula of Vietnam and along shipping channels southeast of Saigon.
• The U.S. Department of Defense developed these tactical herbicides specifically to be used in “combat operations.” They were not commercial grade herbicides purchased from chemical companies and sent to Vietnam. Herbicides also were used, tested, and stored in areas outside of Vietnam, such as Thailand and Korea.
• For the scientifically detail-minded, the two active ingredients in the Agent Orange herbicide combination were equal amounts of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), which contained traces of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).
The dioxin TCDD was an unwanted byproduct of herbicide production. Dioxins are pollutants that are released into the environment by burning waste, diesel exhaust, chemical manufacturing, and other processes. TCDD is the most toxic of the dioxins, and is classified as a human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
• Agent Orange dries quickly after spraying and breaks down within hours to days when exposed to sunlight (if not bound chemically to a biological surface such as soil, leaves and grass) and is no longer harmful.
• For the purposes of VA compensation benefits, veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides, as specified in the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
These Veterans do not need to show that they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides in order to get disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.
• Service in Vietnam means service on land in Vietnam or on the inland waterways of Vietnam. These veterans are referred to as Brown Water Veterans. This includes veterans who either:
Set foot in Vietnam (This includes brief visits ashore, such as when a ship docked to the shore of Vietnam or when a ship operated in Vietnam’s close coastal waters for extended periods and crew members went ashore, or smaller vessels from the ship went ashore with supplies or personnel. The veteran further must provide a statement of personally going ashore.
Or, they served on a ship, while it operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam.
• Blue Water Veterans are not presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides unless they set foot on Vietnam soil or served aboard ships in the inland waterways of Vietnam during this time. These veterans would have been aboard naval vessels anchored off the coastal areas of Vietnam. Evidence must be confirmed through military records that must show the veteran was aboard one of the ships in the region.
• A number of veterans confirmed to be exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during service have been diagnosed with a variety of maladies including leukemia, diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, cancer and Ischemic Heart disease. Those defined as eligible would qualify for a variety of VA benefits, including health care, disability income, support programs for children with birth defects and survivor dependency indemnity compensation to include the Civilian Health and Medical Program of Veterans Affairs for medical and dependent education benefits.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.