Author Topic: Widow hopeful changes will lead to payment  (Read 972 times)

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Widow hopeful changes will lead to payment
« on: April 01, 2012, 05:05:24 PM »

Widow hopeful changes will lead to payment

Published Monday January 31st, 2011

Progress is being made in meeting the needs of those who have applied for Agent Orange compensation under a revised plan announced last month, says Canada's Veterans Affairs minister.

Jean-Pierre Blackburn said 46 people have submitted applications under the amended program: 14 have been approved and the remainder are being reviewed.

"We are going in good process," Blackburn told The Daily Gleaner. "We are still meeting our goal to deliver an answer in less than one month."

Blackburn announced in December that the federal government is extending the deadline for submitting an application for a $20,000 ex gratia payment for veterans and civilians affected by the U.S. military's spraying of Agent Orange at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown during the 1960s. It's also modifying eligibility criteria.

Applicants will have until June 30 to obtain a relevant medical diagnosis and they will no longer have to prove they were expecting that diagnosis before Feb. 6, 2006.

"We have sent 900 letters to the people who had an answer 'no' before to ask them if they agree (for us) to review their files," Blackburn said.

Also changed is the requirement for applicants who were being looked after by primary caregivers to have been alive Feb. 6, 2006, making it easier for widows and widowers to apply on behalf of a loved one who died before the ex gratia payment came into place.

"We still agree to deliver those ex gratia payments to widows and we deliver," Blackburn said. "It is going well. I am very pleased to have done this action for our people who are having those inconveniences with the Agent Orange."

Blackburn said a review is also ongoing of previously declined applications of which 112 have been approved.

To qualify, individuals must be diagnosed with a medical condition listed in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine Update 2004. They must have worked at, trained at, been posted to, or lived within five kilometres of CFB Gagetown when Agent Orange was tested in 1966 and 1967.

The changes will allow approximately 1,140 people to receive the ex gratia payment, at a cost of about $24 million.

Widows on a War Path, the Oromocto area-group that has been battling the federal government for Agent Orange compensation, remains hopeful that everyone who deserves the ex gratia payment will get it.

"We are in watchful mode right now and we're waiting to see what they do," Bette Hudson, the group's leader, said.

Widows on a War Path was initially excluded from the $95.6-million compensation package announced in 2007 because their husbands didn't die within the parameters identified by the federal government.

Hudson's husband Sgt. Ralph Hudson, an artillery officer, was at Gagetown from 1964-66. He died of lung cancer in 2004 at the age of 64 and didn't qualify.

Hudson has since reapplied.

"According to Charlottetown (office of Veterans Affairs Canada), all of the papers are in order and it is in the stream, which means it's being processed," she said. "I feel like Ralph was worth something. It's not much, but like I have said before, they wouldn't have enough money up there to compensate me for what happened to him. But, for my family and me, this is a good beginning."

Hudson said she agrees with the call by the Agent Orange Association of Canada for a public inquiry into herbicide spraying at CFB Gagetown.

Among the other demands being made by the Agent Orange Association of Canada is for the years when agents Orange, Purple and White, along with other toxic herbicides, were sprayed, be changed from 1966-67 to 1956-84.

That's when these spray programs occurred, the association said.

Simon Forsyth, a media relations officer with Veterans Affairs Canada, said research conducted under the auspices of the Department of National Defence, and available on its website, indicates agents Orange, Purple, etc. (the unregistered herbicides) were only used for brief periods in the summers of 1966 and 1967.
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