Yesterday, the VA published their new policy that will hopefully add some peace to the recent Agent Orange strife. Previous policy concerning military members who served near the DMZ between North and South Korea was very limiting. The only thing clear about it was the dates under which a veteran could claim they were exposed.
Under previous policy, a veteran who believed that his or her illness was related to exposure to Agent Orange had to leap a few hurdles. Among the requirements was service in pre-specified units known to have served along the DMZ, and only if service was between the dates of April 1968 and July 1969. Additionally, veterans were required to prove that their health symptoms were definitely caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
The new policy is much more “veteran-friendly.” Under the new policy, the list of qualifying units has been expanded. Instead of just a few units, a slightly more liberal application of those which served in or near the DMZ is used. Additionally, the dates of possible exposure have been dramatically lengthened. The beginning date remains April 1, 1968, but the end date has been push back several years, until August 31, 1971 to allow for residual contamination in addition to direct exposure.
Erik K. Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs stated at the release of this new policy that the, “VA’s primary mission is to be an advocate for Veterans.” The final part of the policy change gives him a good foundation upon which to make this claim. Veterans who meet the previous two requirements do not have to prove any service connection to their current health issues. The VA will from now on simply presume that every service member who meets the above qualifications was definitely exposed to Agent Orange.
Summed up, there are many health afflictions which are known to be caused by exposure to herbicides, any veteran who served along the DMZ during this three year period and has developed one of these health conditions will be qualified to receive health care and compensation from the VA. They no longer have to prove that their affliction is specifically due to Agent Orange and not some other non-service related cause. This new regulation also covers veterans who meet all these qualifications whose children have spina bifida.
Of course, to prevent these changes from being too good to be true, the new regulation also includes the wording “unless there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service.”
This policy becomes effective Feb 24, 2011.
Photo thanks to Petirrojo under creative common license on Flickr.