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More Vietnam War vets eligible for Agent Orange benefits

By the CNN Wire Staff
Some say exposure to Agent Orange can lead to skin lesions.
Some say exposure to Agent Orange can lead to skin lesions.
  • Three additional diseases now qualify veterans for benefits
  • 200,000 veterans could qualify under the liberalized disability program

Washington (CNN) -- The government has started distributing additional benefits for Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam War veterans who qualify under liberalized rules, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday.

Up to 200,000 Vietnam veterans could be eligible for the disability compensation for diseases now associated with Agent Orange, including hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease, the department said in a news release.

Agent Orange was a chemical used to destroy the jungle canopy in the Vietnam War in an effort to expose the enemy.

The Veterans Affairs Department said it has provided disability compensation to veterans with medical problems related to Agent Orange since 1985. Monday's announcement expanded the number of eligible veterans to include those presumed to have contracted the three additional diseases due to exposure to Agent Orange, the department said.

Other recognized illnesses under the department's "presumption" rule for Agent Orange include chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, soft tissue sarcoma and several others.