Vet group tries to spread word on benefits: U.S. expands coverage for soldiers likely exposed to Agent Orange

Jim Lynch, The Detroit News, November 2, 2006
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Pat Daniels has to check, prick or inject himself for diabetes four times a day. Daniels’ diabetes treatment is related to Agent Orange exposure, doctors say.
Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
EASTPOINTE — Pat Daniels is something of an evangelist when it comes to veterans’ benefits.
The 54-year-old Vietnam veteran from Eastpointe, along with the Macomb County Veterans Services Department, is reaching out to fellow vets to make them aware of a recent court ruling that expands health coverage for those who might have been exposed to Agent Orange.
“There are a lot of folks out there who could be affected by this,” said Daniels, president of the Mount Clemens chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.
“We run into three or four Vietnam veterans a week who have diabetes and are eligible for benefits but don’t know it. And the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) doesn’t exactly advertise.”
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Calvin Hicks, right, and Daniels, who is president of the Mount Clemens chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, talk with other vets. Daniels and the county’s Veterans Services Department are reaching out to fellow vets to make them aware of a recent court ruling that expands health coverage. Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
As a “brown-water” Vietnam vet who fought in the muddy inland area of Vietnam, Daniels’ diabetes treatment — which his doctors say is related to Agent Orange exposure — traditionally has been covered by the federal government. Until recently, however, “blue-water” vets — those who served on ships in areas surrounding Vietnam — were not eligible for such benefits.
But an August U.S. Court of Appeals decision reversed that policy, and local veterans groups are trying to spread the word.
Diseases such as diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease and cancer have been linked to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used by the United States in the jungles of Vietnam during the war.
Daniels understands the struggle personally. Four times a day, he has to check, prick or inject himself for his Type II diabetes, a reminder of his tour as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division.
“Whether it’s guys on the ships or guys serving nearby in Thailand a lot of them were exposed,” Daniels said.
“And they deserve help.”
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Daniels hugs second vice president Greg Bowman, a veteran who also has diabetes. The condition has been linked to the chemical defoliant used by the United States in Vietnam. Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
In Oakland County, veterans officials are not actively trying to locate those who might not be eligible because they don’t have the manpower. But according to Oakland County Walled Lake Veterans Services supervisor Jack Becher, the office is pushing to get benefits for more than just those who were on the ships.
“The court case really only talked about the Navy personnel and the troops on the ships,” Becher said. “But we’re taking anyone with a Vietnam service medal and applying for benefits.”
Daniels and his fellow volunteers at Vietnam Veterans of America are preparing to post a billboard in Macomb County that reads “Veterans Get the Benefits You’ve Earned.”
“We need to do this to find these guys and get them their benefits before it’s too late,” Daniels said.
You can reach Jim Lynch at (586) 468-0520 or jlynch@detnews.com.
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If you are a Vietnam veteran and would like more information about the benefits you’re entitled to, you can contact:
Macomb County Veterans Services: (586) 469-5315
Vietnam Veterans of America: (586) 776-9810
Todd McInturf / The Detroit News

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