WASHINGTON - After years of waiting, the federal government approved a new rule that will provide more than $47 million in disability benefits to Air Force reservists and active duty forces who were exposed to Agent Orange residue on aircraft used in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Veteran Joe Ingino, of Lindenhurst, says he hears of fellow veterans dying almost every day due to their exposure to Agent Orange.
"I feel we're the walking dead," says Ingino. "We're dying faster than the World War II guys."
Officials say as many as 2,100 veterans could benefit from the rule. It covers veterans who were on a Fairchild C-123 aircraft between 1969 and 1986. That's the aircraft that was used to spray millions of gallons of the chemical.
In order to receive the benefits, officials say the veterans must be able to show that they worked or flew on a contaminated plane and were later diagnosed with one of 14 conditions that Veterans Affairs says is connected to Agent Orange. Those illnesses include prostate cancer, leukemia and diabetes.
While the rule is good news for many Air Force veterans, the VA says it still will not cover roughly 200,000 "Blue Water" veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange while serving aboard deep-water naval vessels off the coast of Vietnam.