Begich Praises VA Extending “Agent Orange” Benefits to Veterans
Parkinson's Disease, Two Other Illnesses Recognized
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Oct. 13 praised a decision by the Veterans Administration to make it easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange to receive treatment from the VA. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced the VA will establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with three specific illnesses, based on the latest evidence of the illnesses and their association with the herbicides referred to as Agent Orange.
The illnesses affected by the decision are hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson's disease; and ischemic heart disease. According to the VA, veterans who served during Vietnam and who have a "presumed" illness, won't have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. The change will make it easier and faster to apply for veterans benefits.
"Anything we can do to improve services and benefits for our veterans is a positive step," Begich said. "The VA has made the right call in dealing with these Agent Orange cases and the diseases that are impacting veterans because of their exposure during the Vietnam War."
As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Begich has brought up the Agent Orange issue and questioned the VA on several occasions. The decision by Sec. Shinseki brings the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the VA to 15.
In August, Sen. Begich joined U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in sponsoring a resolution that unanimously passed the Senate designating August "Agent Orange Awareness Month."