Community Matters: Improving benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand

Community Matters: Improving benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand

Sen. John Boozman Hide caption By Sen. John Boozman / Guest Column The convenience of email has changed the manner in which Americans communicate with their elected officials. These days, there are fewer and fewer letters delivered to the Capitol by the U.S. Postal Service. So, when a stack of orange envelopes arrived in my Washington, D.C. office in mid-September it caught my attention. That was the idea behind a campaign initiated by Mena veteran Bill Rhodes and his fellow veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. After developing illnesses linked to herbicide exposure during his service in Thailand, Rhodes filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). His claim was denied because the location he served in is not recognized as having been treated with herbicides. The VA currently awards service-connected benefits for exposure to Agent Orange to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thai military bases from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This restriction arbitrarily disqualifies veterans who may otherwise be able to prove their exposure, regardless of their assigned duties during their time stationed in Thailand. For veterans like Rhodes who served in Nam Phong, Thailand, this is a policy they are calling on Congress to change. That’s why I introduced legislation to eliminate existing barriers to benefits for veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. These veterans have been left behind by the current limitations on the presumption of toxic exposure to Agent Orange. Restricting service-connected benefits for our men and women assigned to certain locations and career fields in Thailand during their military service is undermining the commitment we made to veterans. While there is a proposed legislative fix, Rhodes and his fellow veterans who served in Thailand and suffer from […]

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