Aug 31, 2010

Target: Veterans' Benefits; AP Is Leading Edge of Fight Against Veterans

- Paul Sullivan, executive director for the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense, said it would be unreasonable for veterans to have to prove on a case-by-case basis that their illness came from Agent Orange. He believes the science supports the decision by VA to grant presumptive benefits. -

"The presumptive law is absolutely essential," Sullivan said. "Money should not be an issue," emphasizing veterans file claims against VBA in order to obtain urgently needed and endlessly delayed VHA medical care.

The day after the AP hit piece on veterans' benefits comes another piece on Aging vets' costs concern Obama's deficit co-chair.

The question remains whether the veterans' community is going let Congress to slash veterans' disability benefits, a neocon policy priority for years:
By Mike Baker, Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. — The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

"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 Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also allowed Vietnam veterans to get money for ailments such as lung cancer and prostate cancer, and the agency finalized a proposal Tuesday to grant payments for heart disease — the nation's leading cause of death.

Simpson declined to say whether the issue would become part of his work on Obama's panel examining the nation's debt. He looked to Congress to make a change.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Hawaii Democrat who currently chairs the VA committee, said Tuesday he will address the broader issue of so-called presumptive conditions at a hearing previously set for Sept. 23. The committee will look to "see what changes Congress and VA may need to make to existing law and policy," Akaka said in an e-mail.

"It is our solemn responsibility to help veterans with disabilities suffered in their service to our country," said Akaka, who served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. "That responsibility also requires us to make sure limited resources are available for those who truly need and are entitled to them."

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat and Vietnam combat veteran, has also raised questions about the spending. The leading Republican on the committee, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, has not responded to several requests for comment on the topic in recent months.

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