Vietnam vets don’t know about Agent Orange help

MEGAN REITER, TIMES-TRIBUNE, SCRANTON, PA, OCTOBER 11, 2006
HONESDALE — Tom McDonnell talks with roughly 60 veterans each month. He’s found recently that some don’t realize the government can offer help to those exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide used as a defoliant in Vietnam.
“The veteran can not only receive compensation, but he can also receive medication,” said Mr. McDonnell, the director of Wayne County Veterans Affairs.
According to Mr. McDonnell, the government acknowledges a host of diseases related to possible Agent Orange exposure.
The most common ailments are diabetes and cancer, especially prostate cancer, Mr. McDonnell said. Decades after serving in Vietnam, Mr. McDonnell said some vet-erans, who range in age from their early 50s to their 80s, aren’t aware that ailments they’ve experienced recently, or years ago, could qualify for compensation.
“To my surprise and to their surprise, people have some of these conditions,” he said.
Compensation, which can range from $112 to $2,400 per month, is retroactive to the month after a filed claim, but not to the date of a diagnosis, Mr. McDonnell said.
“The compensation is monetary … what it does is get you medication, care for these conditions for the rest on your life,” Mr. McDonnell said.
Vince Riccardo, public affairs director for the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, said there are 2,659 people on the hospital’s Agent Orange registry, meaning they requested an exam for possible Agent Orange exposure. However, the list, which the hospital has amassed over the years, does not mean the veterans were actually treated for a condition related to Agent Orange exposure, he said.
From Oct. 1, 2005, through July 31, the hospital has provided care for 41,215 veterans and serves 19 counties in Pennsylvania and one in New York, according to Mr. Riccardo.
For more information on filing a claim or requesting an exam, contact Mr. McDonnell at 253-4262, ext. 3114, or the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center compensation and pension office at 824-3521, ext. 7133.
Contact the writer: mreiter@timesshamrock.com

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