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New life for bill that may extend Agent Orange benefits

California readers may be interested in learning that Congress is working on a bill that would extend health benefits to approximately 90,000 sailors who may have been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The legislation ran into resistance in November, but an effort to get it passed was resumed by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs' chairman in early May.

Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that is known to cause lung cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and other serious medical conditions. For years, the government has presumed that American ground troops serving in Vietnam were exposed to the substance and provided health benefits to treat them. However, Navy sailors who served in the war, known as Blue Water veterans, were denied the same coverage. This was because the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed there was not enough evidence to prove they were exposed.

The bill extending Agent Orange coverage to sailors has been delayed several times over disagreements on how to finance it. However, a new proposal to increase fees for service members and veterans using the VA's home loan program seems to have traction. The fees, which have not been increased since 2004, would go up less than $3 a month and only apply to veterans who do not have a military-related disability. Veterans' advocacy groups have been fighting to get Blue Water veterans medical benefits for at least 10 years.

Individuals who have served in the military may find it beneficial to speak with an attorney before applying for veterans' benefits. A lawyer could ensure that a veteran takes advantage of all the benefits to which he or she is entitled and help prepare the applications.

Source: Military.com, "Lawmakers May Extend Agent Orange Benefits to 'Blue Water' Navy Vets," Nikki Wentling, May 5, 2018

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