Agent Orange Cases Expanded; Added Costs Raise Fiscal ConcernsThe Associated Press/Washington Post: Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam War veterans are receiving disability compensation for diseases normally associated with aging - not combat - because of the possibility of a link Agent Orange exposure. The diseases in question range from diabetes, for which 270,000 veterans receive Agent Orange-related checks, to erectile dysfunction. "And taxpayers may soon be responsible for even more: VA said Monday that it will add heart disease, Parkinson's disease and certain types of leukemia to the list of conditions that might be connected to Agent Orange." The total cost of these new payments are estimated at $42 billion over 10 years. Budget watchers say the evidence is too thin to spend so much money on the possibility of a connection.
"The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, himself a veteran and the former chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Simpson now co-chairs President Barack Obama's deficit-reduction commission. A 1991 law set up the entitlement program that pays for Agent Orange-related illnesses, including those with strong evidence of a connection, like Hodgkins disease. But, the other illnesses have been added to the list even though experts say the connection is not clear as the VA expanded the application of the law (Baker, 9/1). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.