Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
Toll-Free Agent Orange Helpline Established for Vietnam Veterans
March 9, 2001, 08:00:00 AM
WASHINGTON, DC -- Vietnam veterans now have a new national toll-free helpline to answer their questions about Agent Orange exposure, health care and benefits.
The new helpline -- 1-800-749-8387 --is part of the continuing efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reach America's 2.3 million Vietnam veterans.
Callers can speak directly to VA representatives Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Central Standard Time, or access a 24-hour automated system. They can leave voice mail messages to have information sent to them or listen to recordings about exposure to Agent Orange, VA benefits, health care and disability compensation.
"As scientific studies expand our understanding of the possible long-term health effects of Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam, VA is increasing its programs for affected veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi, himself a Vietnam veteran. "VA is committed to reaching out to these veterans and their families whenever and wherever possible to ensure they receive the health care and other benefits they deserve."
VA expects considerable interest in the helpline because of a proposed policy that allows Vietnam veterans with adult-onset (Type II) diabetes to receive disability compensation for ongoing medical problems linked to Agent Orange or other herbicides during the war. VA now recognizes 10 medical conditions as being associated with Agent Orange.
Agent Orange was a herbicide used to unmask enemy hiding places and destroy foliage during the war. It has been linked to a variety of health problems, ranging from rare conditions and certain birth defects in veterans' offspring to diseases that are somewhat common in middle age, such as prostate cancer and adult-onset diabetes.
A regulation to provide monthly compensation for Vietnam veterans with adult-onset diabetes is expected later this year. VA estimates that approximately 200,000 Vietnam veterans will receive service-connection for their diabetes within the first five years under the new policy. About 36,000 veterans from all periods of service are already recognized as "service connected" for diabetes.
As part of its outreach, VA is expanding its Agent Orange Review newsletter mailings to over 600,000 identified, in-country Vietnam veterans. A special issue of the newsletter has been prepared which summarizes VA benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and the procedures to obtain benefits.
The newsletter, along with the helpline, builds upon longstanding VA outreach to let Vietnam veterans know of changes to their benefits. Over the last 18 years, VA has provided periodic newsletters to over 300,000 Vietnam veterans who have received free Agent Orange-related physical examinations.
The helpline is located at the St. Louis VA Regional Office, which has a similar toll-free helpline for Gulf War veterans. The two helplines will share the same telephone number, with callers selecting the service they wish.
For general information on VA benefits and programs, visit VA's website at
http://www.va.gov/ VA has developed a specific Agent Orange Web Page in conjunction with the helpline. It can be accessed at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/benefits/herbicide/.
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