Sometimes it hits really close to home and reaffirms a commitment to the mission of serving others, and for Hampton VA Medical Center (VAMC) nursing educator Debra Frondelli, her own personal experience feeds her passion of helping Veterans.
“I lost my two brothers to complications from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange,” Frondelli said. “I take my job very seriously and dedicate each day to getting the word out to other Vietnam Vets about symptoms and diseases that are related to Agent Orange Exposure.”
The VA is the expert in diagnosing and treating conditions that may be related to environmental exposures. Some Vietnam Veterans may have medical conditions such as diabetes, prostate cancer or other medical conditions that are often attributed to aging; however, these can also be indicators for VA health care providers to examine patients more closely as diseases related to Agent Orange.
“I wish my brothers would have both been more proactive about their health,” Frondelli said, who said that the hope is for early intervention thus improving outcomes. “If they had been more aware ~ they could have started treatment sooner and could possibly still be with us.”
According to the Veterans Affairs official website (www.va.gov), the VA assumes that certain diseases are related to exposure to Agent Orange as a result of military service. These are called “presumptive diseases.” The VA has recognized certain cancers and other health problems as presumptive diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.
In an effort to educate Vietnam Veterans about Agent Orange exposure, representatives from the Hampton VAMC Rural Health Initiative (RHI) team co host a seminar with the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 631 at the Pasquotank-Camden Public Library, 100 East Colonial Avenue, Elizabeth City, N.C., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 18. The RHI team will meet with local Vietnam Veterans and family members who would like to learn more about medical conditions potentially related to Agent Orange exposure and to apply for health care benefits at the new VA Albemarle Primary Outpatient Clinic (APOC).
“Many Veterans are unaware that they may qualify for benefits from the VA,” said Carvin Harmon, social worker from Hampton VAMC. “It’s really important that Veterans and their family members come to this seminar and learn what is available. It’s also important that surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, and died as the result of diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.”
Harmon also explained that in 2010, the VA streamlined its process to provide health care and disability compensation for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and medical conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. He said that the new rules, which apply to Veterans of all eras, will simplify the process for a Veteran to establish service-connection for PTSD or Agent Orange exposure by reducing the evidence needed to support a claim.
While each claim will be evaluated and require confirmation by a VA provider, the new process is expected to allow for faster and more accurate decisions to help connect Veterans to medical care and other benefits available through VA.
Whether you served in the Air Force, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marine Corps or National Guard (and federally activated for more than one day) you may be entitled to
Benefits from the VA. When attending the event, Veterans should to bring a photo-copy of their DD214 or other proof of military service.
For more information about the event, contact the RHI team at (757) 344-9501.
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