Michael, a Navy veteran, sent me some articles about a couple of bills being circulated within Congress regarding recognition of diseases associated with Agent Orange among Sailors who operated near the coast of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. Those bills are H.R.1494 and H.R. 543.
Agent Orange is a topic brought up frequently by veterans of the Vietnam War, because many veterans of that era have experienced the ravages brought on by it. In a brief look at the Veterans Administration’s website, you will see the following diseases believed to by brought on by the use of Agent Orange. From the VA website:
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells
Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia
Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement
Peripheral Neuropathy, Acute and Subacute
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Currently, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure and resolve within two years. VA proposed on Aug. 10, 2012, to replace “acute and subacute” with “early-onset” and eliminate the requirement that symptoms resolve within two years.
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men
Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues
Agent Orange, and the struggle veterans went though before it was finally acknowledged as being the cause – or at least a contributing factor – of those maladies, became the signature “wound” of veterans returning from the war.
Today’s signature injuries are PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. DOD and the VA have done a good job of acknowledging those injuries right away. But there will probably be other, less common maladies as today’s returning veterans begin to age. We can only hope it will not take another thirty or forty years to offer the appropriate treatment they deserve.