HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its list of ships and aircraft whose crews may be eligible for benefits as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used by the U.S. Military as part of its urban warfare program.
Highland Springs resident Larry Pollard, a Navy veteran, recently learned online that one of the destroyers he served on during the Vietnam War, may have been exposed to Agent Orange and is now included on the evolving government list.
Up until recently, only veterans who served with boots on the ground were eligible for benefits. The possible change is the result of public outcry and political pressure following the denial of benefits for thousands of veterans.
“We ate it, we drank it, we breathed it,” Pollard said. “I was exposed to it just like they were, not face to face with it, but I was exposed to it just the way they were.”
The VA assumes that certain diseases are associated with Agent Orange, including certain cancers. Pollard said he suffers from two diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange, including Diabetes and Pheripheral Neuropanthy, a nervous system condition that causes numbness and motor weakness.
“I don’t want to die from this,” Pollard said. “If I’m going to die, I want to lay down and die, not because something I was exposed to and they wouldn’t tell us.”
Pollard said he has applied for new benefits but hasn't heard back from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Open Door Resource Center Inc. in Richmond can help veterans filing for benefits. You will need a copy of your medical records and certificate of release from the Department of Defense.
They are located at 4009 Fitzhugh Avenue #203 in Richmond. You can call 804-658-2784 for more information.