More than 40 years have passed since the U.S. military used Agent Orange in Vietnam, but only in recent years have health care costs escalated rapidly.
In a report by The Institute of Medicine, an association between exposure to Agent Orange and illnesses including soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma and chloracne has been found.
The report requests further research to determine whether there could be a link to other illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, tonsil cancer, melanoma and Alzheimer’s disease.
Federal officials estimate that 10,000 more veterans have sought medical compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange over the last two years than projected. Over the next decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to pay $50 billion for health care compensation for only one of the 14 diseases the VA says is associated with Agent Orange exposure.
Last year, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia were added to the list of diseases the VA associates with Agent Orange exposure. According to a VA report, ischemic heart disease alone added $236 million in 2010 and $165 million this year in compensation costs.
Alan Simpson, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is among those questioning how the VA will afford the compensation claims without increasing the strain on the national budget. He maintains that today’s veterans could become subject to longer delays for disability-compensation claims, primarily because of the backlog created by veterans from previous generations.
Here is a list taken directly from the Department of Veterans Affairs of diseases that are currently recognized as being linked to Agent Orange:
Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides and resolve within 2 years after the date it began.
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
Chloracne (or Similar Acneform Disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, chloracne (or other acneform disease similar to chloracne) must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells.
Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain.
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement.
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.
Photo thanks to vsai under creative commons license on Flickr.