Now comes word that VA director Eric Shinseki has intervened and cut off an investigation into Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki met with Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, last month to ask that he cancel a hearing on the secretary’s controversial decision to add three diseases to the list of Vietnam veteran illnesses presumed caused by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in that war.
Akaka reluctantly agreed, an informed source told Military Update. The VA thus avoided a brighter public spotlight, so far, on a decision that will help tens of thousands of veterans but also will add $13.6 billion to VA compensation claims in a single year.
Akaka and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a committee member, are pressing Shinseki outside of the hearing process to explain last October’s decision to add heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia to the list of illnesses presumed caused by Agent Orange.
Several weeks after their meeting, Akaka followed up on a March letter to Shinseki with a new one, this one asking the secretary for more details on the consequences of presuming service-connection for ischemic heart disease to any veteran who can show he stepped foot in Vietnam.
The medical costs related to treated any number of illnesses related to Agent Orange can be hundreds of thousands and even millions yearly.