More illness connected to Agent Orange
Officer urges local veterans to contact his office
By Melanie Wilkinson, York News Times, Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 6:22 AM US/Chicago
YORK — York County Veterans Service Officer Don Sandman says that more diseases and illnesses have officially been linked to Agent Orange exposure, and he’s urging all local veterans who may be affected to contact him as soon as possible.
Sandman says that U.S. Veterans Affairs now says three new, specific illnesses have been recently linked and that may entitle more affected veterans to receive benefits.
There are nearly 1,400 veterans in York County — Sandman says that approximately one-third of those people are Vietnam-era veterans. It should be remembered, he says, that only those who were physically on Vietnam soil or on inland waters had the potential of being exposed to Agent Orange.
Sandman said the illnesses affected by the recent decision are B Cell Leukemias, such as “Hairy Cell Leukemia,” Parkinson’s Disease and Ischemic Heart Disease.
Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present. Between January, 1964, and April, 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.
In practical terms, Sandman says, veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. “This presumption simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.”
This latest decision by the VA brings to 15 the number of presumed recognized illnesses.
Sandman listed the other illnesses previously recognized under the VA’s “presumption rule” as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War. They are:
• Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy: A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling and motor weakness.
• AL Amyloidosis: A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
• Chloracne: A skin condition that occurs soon after dioxin exposure and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers.
• Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: A disease that progresses slowly with increasing production of excessive numbers of white blood cells.
• Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2): A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.
• Hodgkin’s Disease: A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
• Multiple Myeloma: A cancer of specific bone marrow cells that is characterized by bone marrow tumors in various bones of the body.
• Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.
• Porphyria Cutanea Tarda: A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas.
• Prostate cancer: Cancer of the prostate, one of the most common cancers among men.
• Respiratory cancers: Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea and bronchus.
• Soft tissue Sarcoma: A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels and connective tissues.
“If a veteran believes that he or she has been exposed to Agent Orange and/or has been diagnosed with any of these diseases, including the three that have just been recognized, they need to contact us,” Sandman said. “If they have other questions about Agent Orange, or anything else for that matter, call 362-4047, or visit the office.”
The veterans service office is located on the first floor of the York County Courthouse and is open Monday through Friday during regular business hours.
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