“Currently, veterans who served in Thailand are not granted presumptive status. The FY21 (fiscal year 2021) NDAA only addresses those who served in Vietnam,” Caleb Randall-Bodman, deputy communications director for the Armed Services committee, said in an email to the Dayton Daily News Friday.
For years, veterans of the Vietnam War who have been exposed to the dangerous chemicals have pushed for “presumptive benefit” status, cutting through red tape in attaining Veterans Affairs benefits.
Veterans of that era served in more than one country, on land and sea. And those who served in nearby Thailand while suffering exposure to herbicides have found they have a higher hurdle to win crucial VA benefits than those who served in Vietnam.
The distinction continues to frustrate vets who served in Thailand.
“The president and senators and Congress need to stop all this BS … and use a common sense approach,” said Thailand veteran Paul Skinner, 66, who has had a disability claim into the VA for illnesses related to what he believes was exposure to toxic herbicides and other chemicals.
“The old politicians start these wars but send the young to fight them,” Xenia resident Skinner added. “But then when it is time to help the veteran from their decisions and mistakes, they want to ignore us.”
Paul Skinner, a Xenia resident who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War, has a disability claim into the VA for illnesses related to exposure to toxic herbicides and other chemicals. Those who served in Thailand while suffering exposure to those herbicides have a higher hurdle to win crucial VA benefits than those who served in Vietnam.
Questions were also sent to a representative of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
On background, those close to lawmakers in Congress have said that the incidence of Agent Orange use in Thailand is seen as more limited, compared to its use in Vietnam.
At the height of the war, some 50,000 American military personnel were stationed in Thailand. The herbicides were used as a defoliant — to kill plants and vegetation at the perimeter or fence-line of U.S. bases so that base personnel could see anyone approaching that fence-line.
Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to types of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma and other conditions.
A VA spokeswoman told the Dayton Daily News last year that the department strives to help Thailand veterans from that era. But that distinction between those who served in Thailand and those who served in Vietnam is anchored in law, she said.
No vote had been scheduled on the new defense bill (as of Friday afternoon), but on Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, issued a joint statement saying both chambers of Congress have reached agreement on the bill.