(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – “It certainly comes as good news to New Zealand’s veterans who served in Vietnam that their government, agreeing with the recent report by the Institute of Medicine here in this country, has quickly decided to make Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart conditions presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
“Now, how long will it be before our government, through the agency of the Department of Veterans Affairs, sees fit to follow suit?
“We recognize that there are a lot fewer Vietnam veterans in New Zealand, and that those who have developed Parkinson’s or heart disease are relatively few in number,” Rowan said.
“The main issue Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki must consider is not, as some may suspect and others may argue, the eventual costs of recognizing these conditions as presumptive service-connected. Rather, he must only determine that the evidence that associates exposure to the herbicides and highly toxic dioxin in Agent Orange is ‘equal to or outweighs’ the evidence against the association. This standard alone, as provided for by law, provides the authority for the VA to add ischemic heart disease and Parkinson’s disease–and, we would add, hypertension–to the list of conditions the VA considers service-connected presumptive.
“We know that the Secretary will act not only on the merits of the IOM report but on the recommendations of key staff from the VA,” Rowan noted. “We trust that he will do the right thing.”