SOURCES: Phil Kraft, executive director, National Veterans Services Fund, Darien, Conn.; July 27, 2007, Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam, Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides, U.S. Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C.
That ambiguity continues to rile veterans advocates such as Phil Kraft, executive director of the Darien, Conn.-based National Veterans Services Fund.
said that while he
"admires the perseverance" of the IOM
committee, too many sick Vietnam vets are still fighting for proper care.
"How hard is it to say, 'We're here for you, because you offered your life, and now we're going to help you,' " said Kraft
, himself a Vietnam veteran.
applauded the inclusion of hypertension within the "limited or suggestive evidence" category, but said he
wasn't surprised, since, in his
opinion, heart disease is rampant among veterans.
"I talk to a lot of [veterans'] wives, and they will say, 'Everything was fine until my husband had his
heart attack," Kraft
"And it's not just because we are now all in our 50s and 60s."
said the evidence-based "bump up" for a number of cancers is also significant, since it may mean better access to medical and disability care for affected veterans.
"Anything that is going to add to the list of compensations is a step in the right direction," he
"I just wish [the committee] would be bolder."
That's because too many veterans are still battling the Veterans
Administration for needed coverage, Kraft
used the example of a fellow veteran diagnosed with myeloma.
The man did end up getting 100 percent disability and care, "but he
had to fight for almost three years, while he
was sick, because the VA was saying, 'Well, we don't know.' "
With American troops fighting now on a new front, Kraft
hopes tomorrow's veterans will be wiser.
One big problem for veterans from the Vietnam War is that they have no blood or other samples to demonstrate their baseline level of health before they went off to fight.
That means it is often tough to prove that wartime exposures are the cause of an unhealthy change in their genetics or tissue toxicity levels, Kraft
"But I know that this time round, soldiers going to Iraq are being told to get a blood sample taken and preserved beforehand," Kraft
"Guys that are still [in Iraq] are advising the younger guys to do that."
said it's disheartening that any veteran has to fight another, often lifelong battle to stay healthy and to get the coverage he
As for the Institute of Medicine report, Kraft
believes its recommendations remain far too cautious.
"I just wish they would loosen up a bit and come down with a recommendation that says, 'Do the right thing for veterans,' " he