By Patricia Kime – AirForceTimes.com
Veterans suffering peripheral neuropathy from exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange could be eligible for compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department.
Early-onset peripheral neuropathy is initially characterized by numbness, tingling or pins-and-needles in the extremities, progressing to symptoms of pain in hands and feet, loss of balance and weakness.
VA on Aug. 10 proposed substituting early-onset peripheral neuropathy for acute and subacute neuropathy on its list of diseases presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure.
The distinction removes the requirement that the symptoms resolved themselves in two years after they appeared.
Eligible veterans must have developed the condition within one year of exposure to a degree that it is at least 10 percent disabling.
Those who have lingering neuropathy as a result of service in Southwest Asia in the 1960s and 1970s could be affected.
Those who think they qualify can apply now for the benefits, but they may not be compensated until the ruling is final.
The proposed change was published in the Aug. 10 Federal Register. The comment period on the proposal is open until Oct. 9.
The proposed swap is the result of a 2010 Institute of Medicine report that concluded there is “limited or suggestive evidence of an association” between exposure to Agent Orange and persistent, early-onset peripheral neuropathy.
The IOM report said more research must be done to determine whether several other illnesses, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tonsil cancer, melanoma, brain cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and birth defects passed on to children are related to Agent Orange exposure.
VA said in a press release that it currently has no plans to add these or any other conditions to the list of diseases presumed to be service-connected.
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