SALEM, OR - The Veterans Affairs Department has long resisted disability claims from service members who said chemical residue left in Vietnam War-era planes that were used to spray defoliants over Southeast Asia caused them severe illnesses, including cancer.
This summer, a panel of independent scientists will try to determine whether those veterans could have been exposed to the toxins in defoliants, including Agent Orange, at a level that would be dangerous to their health.
The panel hosts the first of a series of closed meetings and public hearings on May 15. If it finds a link, the service members could be eligible for tax-free disability compensation up to several thousand dollars a month.
That's something Wes Carter, a retired Air Force major who is leading the crusade, believes is long overdue.