Thailand veterans shouldered with burden of proving exposure

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Exposed to the same poisons and suffering from the same diseases, veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam war believe the VA stacked the deck against them.

After decades of denial, we now know the military sprayed a powerful herbicide called Agent Orange in and around airbases in Thailand, especially on the perimeters.

Agent Orange is a mixture of acids that causes cancer and other deadly diseases.

Many veterans, like Dan Tolly of Tampa, who served on those Thai bases are now sick.

Dan worked in the missile shop at Ubon Air Force Base in Thailand, not far from the perimeter.

“It was like less than a hundred feet away,” he said.

The military heavily sprayed base perimeters with a toxic herbicide called Agent Orange to eliminate jungle growth.

While serving at Ubon, Dan never heard of Agent Orange. But he does recall the base was a vegetation-free zone.

“There was not a stick of anything growing there,” Dan stated.

Years later, Dan suffered two heart attacks.

“Then the cancer came along,” Dan added.

Soft tissue sarcoma in his foot cost Dan his leg below the knee.

Americans based in Vietnam were presumed exposed to Agent Orange.

If they developed ischemic heart disease or soft tissue sarcoma, they automatically qualified for VA disability benefits because those diseases are tied to exposure.

Dan applied for VA disability benefits.

“When I read the denial letter I pretty much just rolled my eyes and said, really?” Dan recalled.

The 2016 denial stated, “There is no evidence that tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange were used in Thailand.”

But the VA’s web site now has a page that is headlined with “Thailand Military Bases and Agent Orange Exposure.”

It goes on to say, “Vietnam-era Veterans whose service involved duty on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975, may have been exposed to herbicides and may qualify for VA benefits.”

But nearly 50 years later, the VA put the burden of proof of exposure on veterans.

“They’re denying any liability any culpability and it seems to be across the board,” Dan explained.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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