SAN DIEGO —
About 90,000 Vietnam veterans are finally getting the benefits they deserve.
Many of them suffer from cancers and other life-threatening diseases linked to Agent Orange. Agent Orange was used during the war to clear vegetation. Some veterans who were exposed to it now have serious diseases, like cancer.
Until recently, these veterans were denied compensation from the U.S. government. These Vietnam Navy vets were known as the blue water sailors, who served on ships off-shore during the war.
Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that disability benefits for presumptive diseases linked to Agent Orange should be extended to these veterans. 73-year-old Jim Caldwell of Mission Valley is one of the veterans that’s set to finally receive some those benefits.
IN THE ZEVELY ZONE: Chollas View military family receives $60,000 home makeover
“It means that we were all vindicated,” said Caldwell. “We are actually all finally being welcomed home”
He will finally begin receiving veterans disability benefits, as well as two years back pay, for his type II diabetes, a condition which may be linked to Agent Orange.
“It just means a lot,” said Caldwell. “I love my country.”
Sailors like Caldwell say they were exposed to it even though they didn’t fight “in country.”
Caldwell says this is a big win for fellow veterans. He encourages other people in his situation to seek the disability benefits as soon as possible.
“They need to file a claim, now,” said Caldwell.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates these new benefits will cost over a billion dollars over the next ten years, while some VA officials say this will cost more than $5 billion.