With suicides on the rise in the ranks of the U.S. military even as the wars wind down, it’s clear that some of war’s fallout doesn’t settle on its victims until well after they’ve left the battlefield. That story earlier this week about the World War II vet who finally got his first VA disability check at age 92 is one example.
Here’s another: the VA has nearly finished plowing through 230,000 claims for disability benefits from vets exposed to Agent Orange now suffering from ischemic heart disease, hairy cell and other chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease. Two years ago, the VA added them to the list of diseases presumably linked to exposure to the defoliant used in southeast Asia to give the enemy fewer places to hide.
“I am proud of our VA employees who worked hard to complete these Agent Orange claims, putting over $3.6 billion into the hands of our Vietnam Veterans and their survivors,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said. “We completed all of the Agent Orange…claims for living veterans, and are now focusing on the fewer than 500 remaining that will benefit survivors.” The added claims strained a VA bureaucracy already struggling to handle claims from veterans of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Better living through chemistry, indeed. Kind of makes one wonder what will end up being the Agent Orange of today’s conflicts.