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Saturday, May 19, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Va To Aid Vets With Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

AP

WASHINGTON - Vietnam veterans with soft-tissue sarcoma, a rare form of cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure, will become eligible for disability payments, Veterans Secretary Edward J. Derwinski said yesterday.

The decision is the second this year by the Veterans Administration to award compensation for cancers linked to exposure to the herbicide, widely used in the Vietnam War.

On March 29, Derwinski announced payment of compensation to veterans suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Yesterday's decision was based on recommendations made the previous day by the VA's Veterans Advisory Committee on Environmental Hazards. The panel of outside scientists and lay people found there is ``at least as likely as not'' a significant statistical association between the disease and exposure to the herbicide.

The ruling in March was based on a Centers for Disease Control study of selected cancers. Researchers found a 50 percent increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among Vietnam veterans. The study looked only indirectly at Agent Orange as the cause, but the VA said any Vietnam veteran is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.

The CDC study found no such increased risk for soft-tissue sarcoma. But the advisory committee's examination of other scientific literature relating to herbicide and dioxin exposure tilted the balance in favor of compensation.

``I believe this is another step forward in resolving a most difficult and emotional issue,'' Derwinski said. ``We intend to proceed as quickly as possible to award compensation to these veterans who are so deserving of our care and concern.''

Veterans have been fighting for years to receive compensation for diseases they say were caused by Agent Orange, a combination of two phenoxy herbicides, one of which was contaminated with the byproduct dioxin.

As many as 28 health problems, mostly cancers, can be associated with exposure, according to retired Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., a special adviser to Derwinski.

VA plans to publish its final compensation regulation for soft-tissue sarcomas in early fall. An estimated 1,100 veterans or their survivors are expected to receive compensation for soft-tissue sarcomas to start with. An additional 50 claims annually are expected thereafter, given the long latency period for cancer.

Soft-tissue sarcomas are a group of malignant tumors found on muscles and other tissue.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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