Veterans Affairs official downplays Agent Orange risks, questions critics

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A key federal official who helps adjudicate claims by veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange has downplayed the risks of the chemical herbicide and questioned the findings of scientists, journalists and even a federal administrative tribunal that conflict with his views.

Jim Sampsel, a lead analyst within the Department of Veterans Affairs’ compensation service, told a VA advisory committee in March that he believes much of the renewed attention to Agent Orange — used during the Vietnam war to kill brush and deny cover to enemy troops — is the result of media “hype” and “hysteria,” according to a transcript of the meeting released to ProPublica.

“When it comes to Agent Orange, the facts don’t always matter,” said Sampsel, himself a Vietnam veteran who also handles Gulf War-related illness questions. “So we have to deal with the law as written.” Agent Orange

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