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VA TO AWARD COMPENSATION FOR AGENT ORANGE-RELATED ILLNESSES

 /ADVANCE/ WASHINGTON, July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown today announced that Vietnam veterans suffering from Hodgkin's disease and porphyria cutanea tarda (a liver disorder) will be added to those now entitled to disability payments based on their service in Vietnam and presumed exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
 Brown's decision follows today's release of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study NAS conducted for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the direction of Congress. Brown said that his decision followed consultation with the White House and reflects the president's concern and support for those Vietnam veterans whose health may have been affected by military service.
 The NAS study concluded that sufficient evidence exists of an association between herbicide exposure and soft-tissue sarcoma, non- Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, chloracne and porphyria cutanea tarda. VA already recognizes soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chloracne and has been paying compensation to Vietnam veterans for these conditions.
 Said Brown: "This study confirms earlier VA decisions on the health risks of Vietnam service. But it also gives us new information that I believe will help to further resolve the lingering concerns of Vietnam veterans and their families. While VA has been providing health care to Vietnam veterans for conditions they believe may be related to Vietnam service, this decision means that we can now add two conditions to our existing list for compensation purposes.
 "I have ordered that we move as quickly as possible to develop and publish regulations on Hodgkin's disease and porphyria cutanea tarda so that we can begin paying benefits to veterans or their survivors. I have also asked that, as soon as final rules are published, a review be undertaken to identify and re-open claims of Vietnam veterans who may have these two conditions," he added.
 Brown also directed VA to review its Agent Orange Registry physical examination files to identify Vietnam veterans with a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease or porphyria cutanea tarda. If these veterans have not yet filed compensation claims, VA will assist them in doing so once the final rule is published. The Agent Orange Registry Program identifies Vietnam veterans who believe they may have health problems related to Agent Orange exposure.
 NAS also recommended that new studies be conducted to help determine the increased risks of disease among Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides. In accepting this recommendation, Brown said, "NAS has given us a framework on which to conduct further research. We need to continue the search for answers to those questions still heavy on the minds of Vietnam veterans and their families."
 The NAS study, mandated by Public Law 102-4 in 1991, cost $955,000 and included a review and evaluation of available scientific literature on the association between various diseases and herbicide exposure.
 NAS reviewed more than 6,000 abstracts of scientific or medical articles and conducted detailed analysis of 230 epidemiologic studies. While NAS determined that Vietnam veterans as a group were exposed to herbicides at lower doses and for shorter periods than many of the other segments of the population who were subjects of studies NAS reviewed, such as farmers and factory workers, NAS concluded that its findings are still relevant to Vietnam veterans.
 NAS also determined that there was only limited or suggestive evidence of an association between herbicide exposure and respiratory cancers (lung, larynx, trachea), prostate cancer and multiple myeloma. In addition, NAS categorized other conditions based on either inadequate evidence or finding no association at all. Brown said that VA would be reviewing the findings in these three categories as well as the studies on which they were based to determine if decisions can be reached on service-connection. He has established a VA panel of experts which will consult with veterans groups and other interested parties.
 Because of the NAS findings, VA is reviewing an as-yet-to-be- published final regulation that would have allowed compensation for peripheral neuropathy and denied compensation for lung cancer. The lung cancer decision specified that, at the time the regulation was developed, scientific and medical evidence found no significant statistical association between herbicide exposure and lung cancer. VA also is considering a revision to an existing regulation linking non- Hodgkin's lymphoma to Vietnam service. The revised rule would link this disease to herbicide exposure, as is currently the case with soft-tissue sarcoma and chloracne.
 Vietnam veterans who believe they have health problems that may be related to their exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam should contact the nearest VA regional office. VA's nationwide toll- free number is 800-827-1000.
 AGENT ORANGE AND RELATED ISSUES
 THE VIETNAM CONFLICT
 -- 9.2 million military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (8/5/64 through 5/7/75).
 -- An estimated 3.1 million veterans served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors in the South China Sea).
 -- An estimated 2.6 million personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam.
 AGENT ORANGE
 Agent Orange was a herbicide used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove cover for the enemy. Agent Orange spraying missions were conducted in Vietnam between January 1965 and April 1970. Shipped in orange-striped barrels, Agent Orange was a reddish-brown liquid containing two herbicides: 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). One of the herbicides -- 2,4,5-T -- was contaminated in the manufacturing process with 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, also known as TCDD or, more commonly, dioxin.
 Various chemical herbicides were sprayed in Vietnam at different times -- during different years as well as different seasons because of the variety of vegetation and environmental conditions.
 The history of herbicides for military use dates to World War II. During the early part of the war, interest arose in chemicals that could be used for crop destruction. Two chemicals were developed as a result of those early efforts -- 2,4,D and 2,4,5-T. Although neither chemical was used in World War II, the value of their use in weed and brush control programs was recognized, and both chemicals have been used widely throughout the world since the 1940s by farmers, foresters and homeowners.
 VA RESPONSE TO CONCERNS ABOUT AGENT ORANGE
 The Department of Veterans Affairs has been involved in the search for answers about Agent Orange since 1978:
 -- VA developed the Agent Orange Registry and Examination Program in 1978 to identify Vietnam veterans who are concerned about Agent Orange exposure. As of June 30, 1993, 226,422 Vietnam veterans have been provided examinations under the Registry Program. VA maintains a computerized registry of data from these examinations.
 -- Public Law 97-72, signed in November 1981, authorized VA to provide free medical treatment, on a priority basis, to veterans for health problems that may be related to Agent Orange exposure. VA presumes that veterans who served within the borders of Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange.
 -- VA's Advisory Committee on Health-Related Effects of Herbicides was established in 1979 to resolve issues surrounding the possible health effects of herbicides on Vietnam veterans. VA also established the Advisory Committee on Environmental Hazards, consisting of non-VA experts in dioxin and radiation exposure as well as several lay members, to advise the secretary on the results of Agent-Orange-related research, and regulatory, administrative and legislative initiatives. With passage of Public Law 102-4, which mandated the National Academy of Sciences study, the committee has not been reviewing dioxin-related studies.
 -- VA has conducted and published numerous studies on the health of Vietnam veterans, associated either with herbicide exposure or the Vietnam experience. Six other studies are in varying stages of completion.
 -- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conducted a study for the Department of Veterans Affairs, at the direction of Congress, to review and evaluate available scientific literature on the association between various diseases and herbicide exposure. NAS reviewed more than 6,000 abstracts of scientific or medical articles and conducted detailed analysis of 230 epidemiologic studies. NAS determined that sufficient evidence exists of an association between herbicide exposure and soft- tissue, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, chloracne and porphyria cutanea tarda (a liver disorder).
 -- Prior to the completion of the NAS study, VA had already recognized soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chloracne as being linked to Agent Orange exposure or Vietnam service, and has been paying compensation to veterans for these conditions.
 -- Based on the results of the NAS study, VA is adding Hodgkin's disease and porphyria cutanea tarda to the list of diseases VA recognizes as being linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
 -- VA will begin developing regulations on Hodgkin's disease and porphyria cutanea tarda. The Agent Orange Act (Public Law 102-4), which mandated the $995,000 NAS study, gives VA until the latter part of February 1994 to publish final regulations. At that time, VA can begin awarding disability compensation to veterans who have these conditions.
 -- As of July 13, 1993, 40,097 Agent Orange-related claims had been filed with VA. This figure includes claims for disability compensation and death claims. Compensation has been paid in 553 cases, although not all related to Agent Orange exposure. Some 29,000 claims are pending, due to the provisions of a lawsuit settlement and Public Law 102-4.
 -0- 7/27/93/1030
 /CONTACT: Department of Veterans Affairs, News Service, 202-535-8300/


CO: Department of Veterans Affairs ST: District of Columbia IN: SU: EXE

DC-KD -- DC026 -- 5901 07/26/93 16:58 EDT
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Date:Jul 26, 1993
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