The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released its report on Agent Orange exposure, which focused on the so-called “blue water” veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam. The report validated previous studies commissioned by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs that proved the distillation process used to generate potable water from sea water actually enhanced the effect of the Agent Orange dioxin by a factor of 10.
The report concluded that Agent Orange dioxin entered the waters off shore through wind drift, the discharge of direct spray and run-off of contaminated particulate matter into rivers and streams leading to the harbors and the seas.
The report stated that it is impossible to document the level of Agent Orange exposure among blue water veterans, just as it is impossible to document the level of exposure for land-based personnel and those who served on inland waterways and harbors. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently only acknowledges service-connection for vets who served within the borders of Vietnam or on the inland waterways.
FRA believes the IOM report provides strong evidence for the extension of that same presumption to blue water veterans. FRA repeatedly highlights this issue in testimony and in discussions with legislators and their staff. The Association supports “The Agent Orange Equity Act” (H.R. 812) that would authorize the VA to presume service-connection for veterans and retirees suffering from ailments related to exposure to Agent Orange if they served in the waters off the coast of or in the skies above Vietnam. Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org to ask their representative to co-sponsor this important legislation.
In related news, the VA has also released an updated list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels that are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict. Visit www.fra.org/agentorange to view the most recent listing and other Agent Orange news.