SGT. SHAFT: Vietnam veteran with lung issues seeks Agent Orange benefits

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a Vietnam veteran (era 1965/66) and, over the years, have developed problems due to an enlarged prostate and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) issues.

During my service, I served in An Khe, Pleiku, Qui Nhon, etc., where heavy concentrations of Agent Orange were sprayed.

Will I be eligible to receive compensation/benefits because of exposure to Agent Orange?

Also, do you know of any advisers located in the Baltimore, Md., or Harford County, Md., area that could assist me with filing a claim.

Randy P.
Via the Internet

Dear Randy:

You may well be entitled to VA aompensation as a result of your exposure to Agent Orange. There are several conditions that are presumed to be linked to such herbicides. You must, however file a claim with the department of Veterans Affairs to establish your entitlement. I suggest that you do this immediately. You can obtain information on initiating this process by contacting VA at www.va.gov. I have asked my friend Jim, a service officer with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, to contact you for further assistance.

Shaft notes

• The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity recently held two field hearings to discuss the employment problems facing veterans in local communities and how to solve those issues. The two hearings led by Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and Ranking Member, Rep. Bruce Braley, were held in Waterloo, Iowa, and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Iowa is home to 56 Army National Guard armories in 53 communities. Northeast Indiana has a veteran population of 48,000. Both communities have been active in supporting measures to help service member’s transition to civilian life.

“We traveled to Iowa and Indiana this week to hear directly from the communities to learn more about the employment difficulties facing our National Guard, Reserve and military,” stated Rep. Marlin Stutzman, chairman of the Subcommittee on Veterans’ Affairs. “It is shocking that as many as 30 percent of returning members of the Guard and Reserves do not come home to a job in this country. We must find ways to help these men and women find meaningful employment after having served their nation.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana’s overall veteran unemployment rate in September was 6.9 percent, while it was lower in Iowa at 5.8 percent. Yet, 35.6 percent of OIF/OEF veterans’ aged 20 to 24 are currently unemployed — four times higher than the national average.

“We heard this week that one of the greatest obstacles to unemployed veterans in these communities is that many employers don’t know where to go find veterans to hire,” Mr. Stutzman said. “We need to look for new ways to connect veterans with employers. This week we heard some good ideas such as increasing the outreach to local employers, especially small businesses, to ensure they understand how to contact state agencies who can get them in touch with unemployed veterans.”

Business leaders and members of the National Guard and Reserve in Waterloo and Fort Wayne both pledged to continue to work together to help lower veteran unemployment in their states.

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