Advocates: VA needs to make rules to compensate Guam Agent Orange vets

SOIL TESTING From left, Nathan Leu from Weston Solutions Inc. and Amanda Wagner, from the same company, take soil samples with assistance from Brian Moyer, a veterans advocate and founder of Agent Orange Survivors of Guam. Guam Environmental Protection Agency contributed photo

Military Veterans Advocacy, a veterans advocate group base in Louisiana, is urging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to have the VA quickly create rules to compensate vets who served on Guam and Johnston Island and were exposed to Agent Orange. 

The request was first made a year ago.

‘No policies have yet been crafted’

"Last spring, MVA representatives met with Wilkie, who said he would look into the issue. Wilkie visited Guam in July, but no policies have yet been crafted or implemented to provide care to sick and terminally ill veterans with Agent Orange-related illnesses," MVA said in news release. 

The organization has acquired and presented substantial evidence that veterans who served on Guam between 1972 and 1980, and on Johnston Island from 1972 to 1977, were exposed to toxins of Agent Orange, Cmdr. John Wells, the MVA lead attorney, said in the release.

"Secretary Wilkie has that information. We understand that federal agencies require some time to implement policies and new rules, but our first request to Sec. Wilkie on this matter was on Dec. 3, 2018 – 366 days ago. Veterans are sick and dying and can't get proper benefits from the VA," he added. 

‘We’re not going to stop advocating’

Last year, MVA won a landmark case against Wilkie, requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize the exposure of U.S. Navy personnel who served in the harbors and territorial seas of Vietnam. Wilkie placed an administrative stay order on implementation of that recognition, the MVA stated. 

"More and more, it seems the VA's policy is to stall long enough so that all affected veterans die," MVA Executive Director Col. Rob Maness said in the release. "We're not going away, and we're not going to stop advocating for these veterans."

Brian Moyer, a veterans advocate and founder of Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, was on island in October to help local and federal officials find sampling sites for traces of the herbicide. Preliminary results from that sampling are anticipated to come in January 2020.

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