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Addressing Agent Orange

Veterans appear to have won their point that many more Americans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war than the government has previously acknowledged in detail. It was wise of Health and Human Services Secretary Schweiker to publicize the existence of Pentagon evidence to that effect, with information his office said was not brought out at hearings a year ago. Whether or not such information was deliberately withheld in the past -- a point on which Mr. Schweiker declined to make a judgment -- credit goes to him and those along the line for this new step toward helping victims of the toxic defoliant. The "very critical" task now, as he said, is to get the word out to all those who may have been affected.

Controversy persists over the medical, psychological, and genetic consequences many veterans attribute to exposure to Agent Orange. But earlier this year both houses of Congress unanimously voted to provide medical or hospital care for conditions that may be associated with exposure to the herbicide. Now the administration, though it did not support the legislation, has lent a hand toward identifying those eligible for it -- and thus perhaps toward the implementation which will prove whether the government is really serious about doing the right thing.

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