TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A top VA official in the Tampa Bay area told 8 On Your Side this week the Department of Veterans Affairs has come a long way.
Margarita Devlin, principal deputy undersecretary for veterans benefits contends there is no longer a huge back-log of veterans waiting for their claims to be processed and completed.
However, claims languish for veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War and were exposed to a dangerous herbicide known as Agent Orange.
Most U.S. bombing missions over North Vietnam originated in Thailand.
Tampa Veterans like Dan Tolly and Paul Devane supported the war effort from Thai bases.
At Korat, Paul remembers the toxic herbicide Agent Orange landed on him as he worked near the flight line.
“It just floats onto you and you can feel it when it hits your skin because it is an oily substance you can’t wipe it off,” Paul explained.
Dan Tolly’s missile shop at Ubon was close to the heavily sprayed perimeter.
“It was like less than a hundred feet away,” Dan remembered.
Dan and Paul developed heart disease and cancers, illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure.
Because their job descriptions didn’t place them on base perimeters, the VA denied their claims for disability.
Devlin, the number two person in the VA for benefits, is in town this week. We had a chance to ask her some questions, like why is the VA limiting benefits to only those veterans who worked on Thailand base perimeters.
“So there’s a science behind it and that’s why we commissioned studies around understanding what the science is. Where would this agent have been, where did it go,” Ms. Devlin explained.
We also asked if the VA is more worried about money than it is about veterans.
“No, we’re not,” Ms. Devlin replied. “We care about our veterans and whenever we can grant a service-connected disability or any other benefit, we will grant it.”
Paul Devane and Dan Tolly remain unconvinced.
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