Previously, this blog discussed a study, from the National Veterans Legal Services Program and Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, which showed that Veterans who served in Guam from 1962 to 1975 were likely exposed to toxins, including Agent Orange. Many Veterans who have served in Guam have asked for VA benefits due to their exposure to Agent Orange and other toxins. However, the VA has been reluctant to acknowledge those claims.
On May 12, 2020, VA Undersecretary Paul Lawrence denied a request by Military-Veterans Advocacy for requests for rulemaking in regard to Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Island. The Advocacy group was requesting that the VA issue a proposed rule either for coverage based on direct exposure or a presumption, such as is used for exposure in Vietnam. The time frame originally requested was 1962 to 1980. In denying the request, Undersecretary Lawrence said trace levels of chemicals found on Guam were components of commercial herbicides that were commonly used on foreign and stateside military bases for standard vegetation and weed control.
In a scathing reply letter dated June 8, 2020, John Wells, Commander USN (ret) and Director of Litigation for Military-Veterans Advocacy, requested that Secretary Robert Wilkie withdraw the denial and agree to issue favorable rules regarding herbicides at Guam. Wells stated “Whether the herbicide is called Orange, Pink, Green, Purple or polka-dot is irrelevant. Whether it was designed for tactical use or vegetation control is of no moment. Nor is there any need to discover whether it arrives on the island by sea, air or carrier pigeon. The VA should compensate all of the victims of herbicide containing 2,4-D or dioxin!” Additionally, Wells broadened the request to include the time frame from August 15, 1958 to 1980. Wells stated that Military-Veterans Advocacy will file a suit under 38 U.S.C. §502 on or before July 13, 2020 to challenge the denial by Undersecretary Lawrence. You can read a full copy of Wells’ letter to Secretary Wilkie at https://www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org/uploads/3/4/1/0/3410338/wilkie.guam04.4-620.final.with_attachments.pdf.
If you are a Veteran who served in Guam and feel that you were exposed to Agent Orange or other toxins, you should file your claim with the VA as soon as possible. Our office is open for calls and online assistance and will continue to help our Veterans in any way possible. If you have a claim for disability and need assistance, please call our office and speak with one of our qualified Veterans’ Disability attorneys. Gardberg and Kemmerly is committed to helping injured and disabled Veterans obtain the benefits they deserve. If you need help with a disability claim, call the office at 251-343-1111 or 1-800-332-1529 for a free consultation. Gardberg and Kemmerly is proud to serve Veterans across the country from our home office in Mobile, Alabama.