New rules posted to the federal register on Thursday make it possible for American service members exposed to Agent Orange years after the Vietnam War to be awarded compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for related health problems.
But it is unlikely that many of the now-eligible, dioxin-sickened veterans who previously applied for compensation will have an active date-of-claim any earlier than tomorrow -- June 19, 2015 -- when the rule change takes effect.
"The effective date will generally be the date of publication of the interim final rule -- in this case, June 19, 2015 -- as long as the veteran or reservist files a new or reopened claim with VA within one year of that date," VA spokeswoman Meagan Lutz said.
The rule change applies to 2,000 or more veterans, most of them Air Force reservists who served aboard or maintained C-123 Providers contaminated with Agent Orange for years after the planes' defoliation missions over Vietnam ended.
Until now, the VA has not recognized these service members for the purposes of Agent Orange compensation, and denied claims based on exposure to the dioxin.