By Ken Olsen
(Copyright 2011/ All Rights Reserved)
The VA has finally posted an expanded list of U.S. Navy ships exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The so-called Brown Water ships list comes a year after U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii chided the agency for failing to obtain key military records that showed sailors on the ships were presumed exposed to the toxic herbicide.
The updated list — which is not complete — was supposed to be available Aug. 1. The agency has not offered an explanation for the delay.
Akaka’s staff found hundreds of cases in which VA regional offices across the country did not request the deck logs from the National Archives before rejecting Agent Orange claims from Vietnam Navy veterans. The senator, then chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, asked VA to review the cases of sailors whose claims appear to have been inappropriately rejected.
VA expanded the list of oceangoing Navy vessels presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange from 150 to 170 ships, in part because of information Akaka’s staff provided.
As of April, the VA had reexamined about 6,700 of the 16,820 cases Akaka called to the agency’s attention, said Tom Pamperin, deputy undersecretary for disability assistance. Many will receive disability compensation and medical care for illnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure. VA has not said when it will complete its review of all 16,820 cases.
Ken Olsen is a frequent contributor to The American Legion Magazine, where the story about the Brown Water Bungle first appeared. For other stories and information about U.S. veterans and Agent Orange exposure see these other Veterans Voices stories: Brown Water Bungle: Paperwork error excluded hundreds of Vietnam Navy veterans from receiving Agent Orange Benefits; Sailors Adrift: The Lingering Tragedy of Agent Orange and Still Adrift as well as Toxic Legacy: A Brief History of Agent Orange Exposure in Vietnam.