VA changes course on Agent Orange disability

A new rule has expanded the list of potential health ailments veterans of the Vietnam War can claim that Agent Orange exposure was responsible for, giving them additional entitlement to disability compensation.

All veterans who served in Vietnam from January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975, are presumed to be exposed to the chemical, which has been known to cause multiple diseases. Now, veterans who are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease or chronic lymphocytic leukemia can receive disability pay, the Tucson Citizen reports.

The Veterans Affairs department has now recognized many different diseases as being associated with Agent Orange exposure. This includes diabetes mellitus, Hodgkin's Disease, prostate cancer, chloracne and acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

This rule change follows a long and slow history for the armed forces to compensate veterans and families associated with chemical exposure during various wars, including the exposure to asbestos that soldiers during World War II endured on Navy ships, according to the Tucson Citizen.

In 2008, widows of veterans who died of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's diseases, were granted survivor benefits after many years of claims. While the VA does not claim Agent Orange was responsible for ALS, it does recognize that the disease is a result of military service.