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Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange: Legislative History, Litigation, and Current Issues

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange: Legislative History, Litigation, and Current Issues published on

Authored by Congressional Research Service
Edition: R43790

The U.S. Armed Forces used a variety of chemical defoliants to clear dense jungle land in Vietnam during the war. Agent Orange (named for the orange-colored identifying stripes on the barrels) was by far the most widely used herbicide during the Vietnam War. Many Vietnam-era veterans believe that their exposure to Agent Orange caused them to contract several diseases and caused certain disabilities, including birth defects in their children, and now their grandchildren.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received the first claims asserting conditions related to Agent Orange in 1977. Since then, Vietnam-era veterans have sought relief from Congress and through the judicial system. Beginning in 1979, Congress enacted several laws to determine whether exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam was associated with possible long-term health effects and certain disabilities. The Veterans’ Health Care, Training and Small Business Loan Act (P.L. 97-72) elevated Vietnam veterans’ priority status for health care at VA facilities by recognizing a veteran’s own report of exposure as sufficient proof to receive medical care, absent evidence to the contrary. The Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-262) completely restructured the VA medical care eligibility requirements for all veterans. Under P.L. 104-262, a veteran does not have to demonstrate a link between a certain health condition and exposure to Agent Orange; instead, medical care is provided unless the VA determines that the condition did not result from exposure to Agent Orange. This authority was permanently authorized by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-163).

Likewise, Congress passed several measures to address disability compensation issues affecting Vietnam veterans. The Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-542) required the VA to develop regulations for disability compensation to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In 1991, the Agent Orange Act (P.L. 102-4) established a presumption of service connection for diseases associated with herbicide exposure. P.L. 102-4 authorized the VA to contract with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct scientific reviews of the evidence linking certain medical conditions to herbicide exposure. Under this law, the VA is required to review the reports of the IOM and issue regulations, establishing a presumption of service connection for any disease for which there is scientific evidence of a positive association with herbicide exposure. Based on these IOM reports, currently 15 health conditions are presumptively service-connected.

Under current regulations, a servicemember must have actually set foot on Vietnamese soil or served on a craft in its rivers (also known as “brown water” veterans) to be entitled to the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. Those who served aboard deep-water naval vessels (commonly referred to as “Blue Water Navy” veterans) do not qualify for presumption of service connections for herbicide-related conditions unless they can prove that the veteran’s service included duty or visitation within the country of Vietnam itself, or on its inland waterways.

Recently, Vietnam-era veterans have increasingly expressed concerns about all types of medical issues occurring in their children, regardless of age, and in successive generations. Furthermore, they have asserted that more research should be done on paternally mediated birth effects, so that compensation policies might be developed similar to those that address maternally mediated birth effects of Vietnam-era progeny.

Publication Date:
Nov 18 2014
ISBN/EAN13:
1505203740 / 9781505203745
Page Count:
24
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Language:
English
Color:
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Military / Veterans

19.95

Veterans and Homelessness

Veterans and Homelessness published on

Authored by Congressional Research Service
Edition: RL34024

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan brought renewed attention to the needs of veterans, including the needs of homeless veterans. Researchers have found both male and female veterans to be overrepresented in the homeless population, and, as the number of veterans increased due to these conflicts, there was concern that the number of homeless veterans could rise commensurately. The 2007-2009 recession and the subsequent slow economic recovery also raised concerns that homelessness could increase among all groups, including veterans.

Congress has created numerous programs that serve homeless veterans specifically, almost all of which are funded through the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These programs provide health care and rehabilitation services for homeless veterans (the Health Care for Homeless Veterans and Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans programs), employment assistance (Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program-a Department of Labor program-and Compensated Work Therapy program), and transitional housing (Grant and Per Diem program) as well as supportive services (the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program). The VA also works with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide permanent supportive housing to homeless veterans through the HUD-VA Supported Housing Program (HUD-VASH). In the HUD-VASH program, HUD funds rental assistance through Section 8 vouchers while the VA provides supportive services. In addition, the VA and HUD have collaborated on a homelessness prevention demonstration program.

Several issues regarding veterans and homelessness have become prominent, in part because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One issue is ending homelessness among veterans. In November 2009, the VA announced a plan to end homelessness within five years. Both the VA and HUD have taken steps to increase housing and services for homeless veterans. Funding for VA programs has increased in recent years (see Table 4), Congress has appropriated funds to increase available units of permanent supportive housing through the HUD-VASH program (see Table 5), and the number of veterans served in many programs has increased (see Table 6). Congress has appropriated a total of $500 million to support initial funding of HUD-VASH vouchers in each year from FY2008 through FY2014, enough to fund approximately 68,000 vouchers. Since the VA announced its plan, the HUD and VA point-in-time estimates of the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has fallen from 74,050 in 2009 to 49,933 in 2014 (see Table 1).

Another issue is the concern that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are at risk of homelessness may not receive the services they need. In addition, concerns have arisen about the needs of female veterans, whose numbers are increasing. Women veterans face challenges that could contribute to their risks of homelessness. They are more likely to have experienced sexual trauma than women in the general population and are more likely than male veterans to be single parents. Historically, few homeless programs for veterans have had the facilities to provide separate accommodations for women and women with children. In recent years, Congress and the VA have made changes to some programs in an attempt to address the needs of female veterans, including funding set asides and efforts to expand services.

Publication Date:
Nov 13 2014
ISBN/EAN13:
1503282627 / 9781503282629
Page Count:
44
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Language:
English
Color:
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Military / Veterans

19.95

National Research Action Plan: Responding to the Executive Order Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families

National Research Action Plan: Responding to the Executive Order Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families published on

Authored by Department of Veterans Affairs

This NRAP will complement the 2013 Interim Report of the Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health (May 2013) to ensure that Veterans, service members, and their families receive necessary mental health services and support. Close collaborations between the agencies will expedite fulfillment of the strategies outlined in the NRAP. The DoD, VA, HHS, and the Department of Education understand the gravity and urgency of the problems and are committed to advancing the health of our military and nation through their collective research. To ensure progress and success, the agencies will schedule formal joint review and analysis of efforts. Further, continued analysis of needs using the Interagency Research Continuum Approach is planned. The Agency research working group co-chairs will be responsible for overseeing the formation of any necessary new workgroups or initiatives to deliver on the plans of this NRAP. Collectively, these activities will support the Order’s research goals to prevent suicide, to reduce the number of individuals affected by PTSD, TBI, and comorbidities, and to improve the quality of life of those who do experience these conditions through better-coordinated and synchronized efforts to accelerate progress in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Publication Date:
Jul 20 2014
ISBN/EAN13:
1500578282 / 9781500578282
Page Count:
50
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Language:
English
Color:
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Military / Veterans

14.95

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