Decades after the Vietnam War, the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged last week that Monsanto’s Agent Orange—a dangerous herbicide sprayed over 4.5 million acres across Vietnam during the conflict—is responsible for health ailments in a group of as many as 2,100 veterans.
It had previously denied such allegations.
The United States government will pay out $45 million in disability benefits over ten years to compensate Air Force reservists and active-duty forces who were exposed to Agent Orange left over from the Vietnam War. The exposure came from residue on Fairchild C-123 aircraft, which were used to spray millions of gallons of the chemical, and, evidently, affected soldiers in the United States who later handled the planes from 1969-1986. According to ABC, the VA’s decision to compensate the 2,100 veterans follows a January Institute of Medicine study that found “some C-123 reservists stationed in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had been exposed to Agent Orange residues in the planes and suffered higher risks of health problems as a result.”
The VA has previously acknowledged (and made compensations for) the chemical’s health effects on soldiers directly exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and Korea. However, considering the 2,100 veterans did not even visit Vietnam but were merely exposed to planes that sprayed the chemical, the department’s decision to pay the new set of veterans is a silent admission of just how toxic the chemical is.