KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA’s Liabilities Grow As Agency Expands List Of Diseases Linked To Agent Orange

Politico looks at a new fight brewing over Agent Orange and how it affects programs for Vietnam Veterans. "It's a world turned upside-down from decades ago when returning soldiers had to fight to get attention for deadly lymphomas linked to the herbicide. Now the frailties of men in their 60s - prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease - lead the list of qualified Agent Orange disabilities, and the result has been an explosion in claims - and the government's liability. The latest expansion, approved by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in October, adds ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's and will cost at least $42 billion over the next 10 years. The VA estimates 349,000 individuals are already receiving Agent Orange disability benefits and that number could soon reach 500,000 - or one out of every four surviving Vietnam veterans by the VA's count." But even some of the strongest supporters of veterans programs, including Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., are questioning the move. Webb has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Sept. 23 (Rogers, 8/30). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.