In response to requests from a Connecticut veteran and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Thursday called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to extend Agent Orange benefits to veterans who served in Korea in 1967.
“Eugene Clarke, of Redding, Connecticut, has been instrumental in bringing a light to shine on these problems,” said Blumenthal, D-Conn., referring to the Army veteran who has spent years fighting to get benefits for veterans who served in Korea in 1967. C-HIT first reported on Clarke’s efforts Tuesday.
The VFW presented testimony Wednesday to the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees, asking that the VA grant benefits to veterans with illnesses that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. Now, the VA provides the benefits to veterans who served in Korea from 1968 to 1971. Yet, children born with spinal bifida are given benefits if their parents served in Korea in 1967.
Blumenthal, who is ranking member of the Senate committee, said “I can pledge to you that we are going to fight as long and hard as possible to make sure that veterans who served in the Korean DMZ are covered in compensation health care if they suffer from Agent Orange-related illnesses.”
“We are going to make sure they are treated fairly,” he said.
The VA has maintained that the United States did not put Agent Orange herbicides in “general use” until 1968. Clarke obtained a 1979 Defense Department letter to the VA that cites a pilot Agent Orange program conducted by the U.S. on the Korean DMZ in nine locations in 1967.
Clarke has Type 2 diabetes one of the illnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure. Clarke said that he is “thrilled” that Blumenthal is addressing the problems of Korean DMZ veterans.
Carlos Fuentes, senior legislative associate of the VFW, said he is “working with Blumenthal’s staff to see how we can get this done.” He said the VFW’s involvement with the issue was the result of “extensive conversations” and documents Clarke provided.
This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).