- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Where can I find a list of units presumed exposed to Agent Orange while in service in Korea? Thanks

Larry A.
Via the Internet

Dear Larry:

Veterans who served in a unit in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, and who have a disease VA recognizes as associated with Agent Orange exposure are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. These veterans do not have to show they were exposed to Agent Orange to get disability compensation for these diseases.

VA and the Department of Defense must determine the veteran’s unit operated in the DMZ area and the veteran was physically there. VA’s final regulation presuming herbicide exposure for these veterans took effect on Feb. 24, 2011.

This means that eligibility is not determined by assignment to a particular unit, but rather by the individual proving he was physically at the DMZ during the period indicated.

Shaft notes

• Veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships operating on the waters of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, may be eligible to receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for 14 medical conditions associated with presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.

An updated list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships confirmed to have operated on Vietnam’s inland waterways, docked on shore, or had crew members sent ashore, has been posted at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/ to assist Vietnam veterans in determining potential eligibility for compensation benefits.

“Posting of the ships list is an important recognition of the sacrifices U.S. Navy and Coast Guard veterans made for this nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “It provides an easier path for veterans who served in Vietnam to get the benefits and services they are entitled to under the law.”

VA presumes herbicide exposure for any veteran with duty or visitation within the country of Vietnam or on its inland waterways during the Vietnam era. Comprehensive information about the 14 recognized illnesses under VA’s “presumption” rule for Agent Orange is also located on the website.

In practical terms, veterans with qualifying Vietnam service who develop a disease associated with Agent Orange exposure need not prove a medical link between their illnesses and their military service. This presumption simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

For questions about Agent Orange and the online list of ships, veterans may call VA’s Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387 and press 3.

When a claim is filed by a veteran, surviving spouse or child, VA will determine whether the veteran qualifies for the presumption of exposure based on official records of the ship’s operations. Ships will be regularly added to the list based on information confirmed in these official records.

Even if a veteran is not filing a claim, a veteran may conduct his or her own research and submit scanned documentary evidence such as deck logs, ship histories and cruise book entries via email to [email protected].

Service on board ships anchored in an open water harbor, such as Da Nang Harbor, or on ships on other open waters around Vietnam during the war, is not considered sufficient for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure. For veterans interested in obtaining deck logs, contact the National Archives at College Park, Md., at https://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/college-park/researcher-info.html.

The Agent Orange Claims Processing System website located at https://www.fasttrack.va.gov/AOFastTrack/ may be used to submit claims related to the three conditions added to the list of Agent Orange presumptives last year (Parkinson’s disease, hairy cell and other chronic B-cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease).

This website makes it easy to electronically file a claim and allows veterans and their physicians to upload evidence supporting the claim. It also permits online viewing of claim status.

Veterans claiming other conditions may file online at VA’s My-eBenefits website at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal. They can check the status of their claim with a premium account (confirming their identity), and use a growing number of online services.

Service members may enroll in My-eBenefits using their Common Access Card at any time during their military service, or before they leave during their Transition Assistance Program briefings.

Veterans may also enroll through their myPay or MyHealtheVet accounts, by visiting their local VA regional office or Veteran Service Organization, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

• The Sarge joins Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, in support of his statement regarding the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting. The committee has extended the 2014 deadline for implementing the existing 2006 Realignment Roadmap for military basing.

“I welcome the ministers’ affirmation that the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains ‘indispensable.’ During my time in the Senate, I have consistently maintained that the U.S. must reinvigorate its role as the guarantor of stability in East Asia.

“The decisions announced today with respect to basing realignments were predictable. However, the reality of extensive delay in completing the Futenma Replacement Facility as it is now proposed underscores the importance of resolving U.S. basing realignments in a more realistic manner for the good of our alliance and for our strategic posture in East Asia. This is precisely what I, along with Senators Levin and McCain, recommended to the Secretary of Defense last month. Subsequently, I have engaged all levels of the U.S. and Japanese military and civilian leadership.

“I am confident that the provisions on East Asia basing in the defense authorization bill approved by the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week will be adopted. At that time, Congress will have provided a clear statement of intent to the Department of Defense regarding the need to evaluate and eventually adopt more realistic alternatives. I will continue to advocate a workable, cost-effective solution to reduce the burden on the Okinawan people, fulfill our commitment to the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and strengthen the U.S. contribution to regional security.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email [email protected].

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