By Andy Gero
After the Vietnam War the Dept. of Veterans Affairs decided that for veterans who were presumably exposed to Agent Orange disability benefits would be limited to only those who actually set foot on land. For those veterans, the VA developed a list of presumptive illnesses – among them peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer and more – for which it would pay service related benefits.
“Blue water” veterans – those on ships offshore in deep-water harbors – would not qualify. There were exceptions for those who had docked and set foot on land or were on boat patrol on inland waters.
Committee meetings were held to determine whether the distilled seawater aboard ships was contaminated with Agent Orange. Distilled water aboard ships was used for drinking, cooking, laundry, showers and making coffee. The committee called it a plausible pathway to exposure.
The VA estimates that of the 80,000 living blue water veterans, about 40,000 have been found eligible for benefits, while 20,000 have been denied. In the event you are a Vietnam veteran and have been diagnosed with any of the above-mentioned diseases, contact the Veterans Administration to apply for benefits.
You may also reach a Veterans Service Officer by attending a VFW or an American Legion meeting that occurs monthly in La Crescenta. The American Legion meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m., and the VFW meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. Both Posts meet at 4011 La Crescenta Ave. in La Crescenta. Membership is not a requirement to attend meetings.
Andy Gero is a life member of American Legion Post 288, and VFW Post 1614.
He may be reached through the CV Weekly, (818) 248-2749 or write Crescenta Valley Weekly at 3800 La Crescenta Ave., Suite 101, La Crescenta, CA 91214.