VA Proposes Important Amendment to Expand Healthcare for Veterans

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Swords to Plowshares Encourages Vietnam Veterans Impacted by Agent Orange to Re-Open Claims

Vietnam War veterans who have endured the devastating health effects of Agent Orange for decades are encouraged to file a new claim or re-open an existing claim at the VA.

VA’s proposed regulation, which will make several diseases with proven scientific association to Agent Orange, has the potential to expand access to free lifetime healthcare for 200,000 or more Vietnam War veterans.

''We applaud Secretary Shinseki for taking this very important step to finally provide free healthcare and pay compensation to our Vietnam veterans who were denied the treatment they were rightfully owed,'' said Michael Blecker, Executive Director at Swords to Plowshares.

Secretary Shinseki is proposing, if the new rule is accepted, that Vietnam War veterans suffering from B-cell leukemias, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease will only have to show they have the condition and that they served in Vietnam in order to receive VA compensation payments as well as free VA healthcare.

“The Obama administration and VA Secretary Shinseki have demonstrated that they understand the urgency it takes to prevent further suffering and premature deaths among our aging Vietnam War veterans with serious, chronic illnesses caused by Agent Orange poisoning,” said Blecker.

To date, Vietnam War veterans have encountered many obstacles and have been required to prove exposure to harmful herbicides during their service. Many Vietnam War veterans rely on the support of veteran service organizations to access VA services.

Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based agency that delivers comprehensive services to more than 2,000 veterans every year, is available to answer questions and provide assistance with VA claims for all veterans, including Vietnam War veterans impacted by VA’s new rules.

Swords to Plowshares strongly encourages all veterans who were exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange during their service to re-open their claim or file a new claim with the VA in order to qualify for free VA healthcare and benefits. While the proposed amendment cannot rectify the physical damages already done, it can provide adequate medical treatment and financial stability to these veterans for the remainder of their lives.

''Our country neglected Vietnam War veterans and denied the harmful effects of Agent Orange for too long,'' said Blecker. ''Our hope at Swords to Plowshares is that every Vietnam War veteran affected by the harmful chemicals will act now to file for what they are owed with the assistance of a veterans group.''

About Swords to Plowshares
Founded in 1974, Swords to Plowshares is a community-based not-for-profit organization that provides counseling and case management, employment and training, housing and legal assistance to homeless and low-income veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Swords promotes and protects the rights of veterans through advocacy, public education, and partnerships with local, state and national entities.

In the dual role as a service provider and advocate, Swords to Plowshares is nationally recognized for its expertise and dedication to promoting and protecting the rights of veterans.

Learn more about the work of Swords to Plowshares, and ways in which you can help, by visiting our website at http://www.stp-sf.org .

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Amy Fairweather
Swords to Plowshares
415-252-4787 ext. 356
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