Change to Agent Orange Claims May Aid Veterans
by Chris Roberts,
El Paso Times
Veterans Affairs has started taking claims for hypertension related to Agent Orange exposure, but it
will determine at a later date whether the claims will be honored as being military "service-related," according
to service organizations that received notices from VA.
A letter from the Texas Veterans Commission to its county service officers indicates that the claims
are expected to be approved. The claims won't be actively "worked" until the VA makes its decision.
Requests for comment made to area VA agencies
were referred to Washington, D.C. However, after two days, the public affairs office in Washington still had no comment.
If the claims are approved, it could mean as
much as $300 a month for Bob Snow, a retired soldier who worked as a forward observer directing artillery fire in the Vietnamese
jungles. Snow -- who worked with special forces soldiers and Montagnards, a French name for the indigenous people of Vietnam's
central highlands -- operated in areas sprayed with Agent Orange, a defoliant that knocked down vegetation used as cover by
Snow retired in 1982 and was
diagnosed with hypertension by the VA in 1983. However, the condition was not considered service-related. Therefore, his disability
compensation was limited. If hypertension is connected to Agent Orange, it could mean as much as an extra $300 a month for
Snow, which he said would relieve some of the pressure of the rising cost of living.
Jeri Elena Mark worked as a radar mechanic for
Hawk missile systems at a base in Vietnam, where she watched planes drop Agent Orange on vegetation surrounding the camp,
which was being shelled. She had experienced high blood pressure, a symptom of hypertension, during her Army career, usually
associated with flashbacks from her Vietnam service.
She retired in 1985, but her exposure is not considered combat-related, so she would
get no increase in disability payments. However, her family would receive benefits after her death if the cause is related
to hypertension. Chris Roberts may be reached at 915-546-6136.
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