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US agrees to pay millions for Agent Orange claims
- Publication : 18 Juin 2015
By HOPE YEN Jun. 18, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ending years of wait, the government agreed Thursday to provide disability benefits to as many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces exposed to Agent Orange residue on airplanes used in the Vietnam War.
The new federal rule, approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, takes effect Friday. It adds to an Agent Orange-related caseload that already makes up 1 out of 6 disability checks issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The expected cost over 10 years is $47.5 million, with separate health care coverage adding to the price tag.
"Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do," VA Secretary Bob McDonald said in a statement. His office held a series of private meetings with veterans' organizations and lawmakers Thursday to discuss ways to expedite the delivery of benefits, including to surviving spouses.
The new federal rule covers an expanded group of military personnel who flew or worked on Fairchild C-123 aircraft in the U.S. from 1969 to 1986 and were believed to have been exposed to Agent Orange residue. The planes had been used to spray millions of gallons of the chemical herbicide during the Vietnam War.