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RI Veterans: Did you know? 15.02.24 (Agent Orange rule change, events, more) – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, veterans writer

Agent Orange Rule Change

VA proposed rule change on Agent Orange acknowledges Agent Orange release at military installations located in United States. This rule change could grant benefits to thousands of Veterans who served at military installations located in the United States.

Included would be thousands of Rhode Island veterans that would include hundreds of Rhode Island National Guard and spouses of deceased veterans who died of cancer, heart condition, and other illnesses that could be linked to their service. 

Last week. the VA submitted a rule change that would grant thousands of veterans who were stationed at U.S Installations between 1940 and 1970 disability and death benefits because Agent Orange has been proven to have been used at this stateside installation.

In layman’s terms, if you were stationed at bases stateside in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York( Fort Drum), Tennessee, Texas and Utah the proposed rule change in the federal register will give the veteran presumption to exposure to Agent Orange – see HERE.

The proposed rule change would grant “presumptive benefit” status to veterans who developed certain cancers, diabetes,  heart conditions and other illnesses after being stationed in locations where the U.S. military tested, stored or used Agent Orange and other herbicides. “Presumptive benefit” status is a reference to eligibility based on diagnoses of illnesses — including certain forms of cancer and heart conditions — that have been linked to exposures of chemicals found in Agent Orange and other defoliants. 

The proposed rule change in the Federal Register was formally published Feb. 12th. The rule is not expected to take effect for several months. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement that the rule change will allow for disability benefits to extend to more veterans.

Members of Rhode Island National Guard Exposed To Agent Orange

One of the locations thousands of Rhode Island National Guard( RIANG) soldiers trained at is Fort Drum. Over four-square miles (2,560 acres) located in an artillery impact area Agent Orange was applied by helicopter since access to it on the ground was not possible. 

Fort Drum was a training area frequently used by RIARNG artillery, engineer, military police and support units annually. Moreover, most of the guardsman’s trained and lived in the field.

Additional stateside location Agent Orange was known to be used at can be found on the VA website – HERE.

The proposed rule change could entitle widowers of to a monthly compensation for over $1600 a month (the monthly compensation for a surviving spouse is not income based)  IS NOT INCOME BASE).

Cancer And illnesses Currently Linked To Agent Organge

Cancers caused by Agent Orange exposure 

  • Bladder cancer
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas
  • Note: Osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma are not included on the list of presumptive conditions.

Other illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure 

  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it)
    Note: Under our rating regulations, this condition must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of herbicide exposure.
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
  • Parkinsonism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
    Note: Under our rating regulations, this condition must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of herbicide exposure.
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
    Note: Under our rating regulations, this condition must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of herbicide exposure.

If you have a cancer or illness that’s not on the list of presumptive conditions, but you believe it was caused by Agent Orange exposure, you can still file a claim for VA disability benefits. But you’ll need to submit more evidence. 

VETTIP:  Even if you did not serve at these locations in the time period listed, still file. Agent Orange remains in the environment for at least 50 years, moreover, I have assisted retired Rhode Island Guard Members who did annual training at Fort Drum. Subsequently, after gathering the evidence and filing the claim, the VA linked their illnesses to herbicides’ exposure. 


Q: My spouse died of cancer in 1990, can I still file claim?

A: Yes, you would file VA form 21P-534EX, “Application for DIC, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits” – Go HERE.

VETTIP: The form is 20 pages, however the first 10 pages are instructions. If filing for DIC, you will only be required to fill out a small portion of the form. 

The Italian American War Veterans of US, VFW, American Legion , DAV and other veteran organizations can assist any veteran or widow filling out the application. All services provide by these organizations are FREE. Call ITAM (401) 677-9838 or email [email protected]  who will set-up a meeting to assist completing the required forms.

FAQ on when to file

Q: I am a cancer survivor and served at Fort Drum, should I file?

A: Yes, although your cancer is in remission, you still should file. Depending on the impact to your life, you could be rated from ZERO to 100 percent compensation.

ZERO percent rating classifies you as a disabled veteran. Moreover, the rating recognizes your past cancer was linked to your service. If the cancer returns, the VA has already linked the cancer to your service. While undergoing cancer treatment, you should apply immediately to increase the ZERO rating.

During cancer treatment, the VA will award you 100% temporary (normally at least 6 months), which will entitle you to almost $4000 a month and free health care for the cancer.

Q: Should I wait to file pending the rule approval?

A: No, file immediately. 

The Italian American War Veterans of US, VFW, American Legion , DAV and other veteran organizations can assist any veteran or widow filling out the application. All services provide by these organizations are FREE. Call ITAM (401) 677-9838 or email [email protected]  who will set-up a meeting to assist completing the required forms.

RINEWSTODAY will be tracking the VA proposed rule and do a follow up story since it possibly could impact thousands of Rhode Islanders. 

Here is the information taken from the VA press release notifying about this change:  

Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a proposed rule outlining plans to expand the locations and time frames for which VA presumes exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. If this proposed rule becomes final, VA will implement a new presumption of exposure to locations where herbicides were tested, used, or stored outside of Vietnam. 

Specifically, this proposed rule would add locations in the United States (full list of US locations where Agent Orange was tested or stored), Canada, and India to the existing presumptives for Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia, Johnson Atoll, Guam, American Samoa, Korea, Laos, and Thailand.

A presumption of exposure means that VA automatically assumes that Veterans who served in certain locations were exposed to certain toxins. Presumptives lower the burden of proof required to receive disability benefits, helping Veterans get the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible. This expansion of presumptives will help Veterans who served in the specified locations receive health care and benefits for certain cancers and chronic conditions. 

To be eligible, a Veteran must have served in the identified location(s) during a specific time period and currently have a condition(s) presumptively associated with herbicide exposure.

Delivering world-class health care and benefits to toxic-exposed Veterans is a top priority for VA and the Biden-Harris Administration. As a part of President Biden’s pledge to serve Veterans with military toxic exposures, over the past few years, VA has expanded presumptive service connection for more than hundreds of  health conditions related to toxic exposures under the PACT Act – the largest expansion of Veteran care and benefits in generations. Thanks to this historic action, VA is delivering more care and more benefits to more Veterans than ever before in U.S. history.

“This proposed change would make it easier for Veterans exposed to herbicides who served outside Vietnam to access the benefits they so rightly deserve,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Our goal is to provide every Veteran – of every era – with the VA health care and benefits they deserve, and this is another step in the right direction.”

Veterans who want to file an initial claim for a herbicide-related disability can visit VA’s website, use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, or work with a VA-recognized Veterans Service Organization to assist with the application process. Veterans may also contact their state Veterans Affairs OfficeSurvivors can file claims for benefits based on the Veteran’s service if the Veteran died from at least one of the recognized presumptive herbicide diseases.

This proposed rule also codifies provisions in the PACT Act, the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019, and the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021.

For more information about the changes, visit The Federal Register.


FREE APPLE TV for 3 months for Veterans S

Attention Veterans: Thanks to the generosity of AppleTV+ here’s an exciting opportunity for you – the veterans in our network. Beginning now, AppleTV+ is granting free access to their streaming service so that you can view their latest exciting series, “Masters of the Air.”

From the producers of “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” this latest World War II series features the airmen of 100th Bomb Group, a brotherhood forged by courage, loss, and triumph.

CLICK HERE to catch up now with this special offer and enjoy three months of AppleTV+ for free. And don’t miss new episodes every Friday through March 15th. After redeeming your code, simply go to your favorite streaming device and search for the AppleTV app. If you don’t have it, you can download it from wherever you get apps for your device. And if you’re on a PC or Android, you can watch at



Monday, February 19, 11:30am to 1300pm – FREE LUNCHEON for all veterans and their guest at VFW 5392, 134 Shove Street, Tiverton, RI. The luncheon will be traditional Portuguese food cooked by guest combat veteran chefs Mike Bozzi.

March 16, 2024, 1pm to 3:30pm – Tea for RI Women Veterans, Rhode island Veterans Home, 480 Metacom Ave, Bristol RI, 1:00 PM – 3:30PM.

Come join fellow Rhode Island Women Veterans for an afternoon of community and conversation. Meet other local women veterans, share experiences, inspire and encourage each other. Sponsored by Military Women Across the Nation. Point of contact Jeannie Vachon 401-533-0101.


State of Rhode Island Benefits for Veterans Receiving 100% VA Disability

Free Rhode Island Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License for Disabled Veterans: Wartime Veterans with serious disabilities may be exempt from Rhode Island vehicle registration and driver’s license fees.

Who is eligible Free Rhode Island Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License for Disabled Veterans? To be eligible Veterans must have received an honorable discharge for service in the U.S. Armed Forces during a wartime period and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Lost or lost the use, one or both of their arms, hands, feet, or legs
  • Received a grant from the VA for a specially adapted vehicle
  • Received a VA combined, service-connected disability rating of 100%
  • Rated “individually unemployable” due to a service-connected disability

Free Rhode Island Disabled Veteran License Plate:The Rhode Island Disabled Veteran License plate is available to Veterans who have a 100% disability rating from the VA. These plates may be used on private or commercial vehicles weighing 6,300 lbs. or less. There is no initial or renewal fees for this license plate. Only one set of plates is authorized. Plates may be transferred to the un-remarried Surviving Spouse.

Veterans are required to provide a copy of their discharge papers (DD214 or other official proof of military service) and must request official documentation from the Providence VA Regional Benefits Office indicating they have a 100% disability rating before they apply.

Providence VA Regional Benefits Office
380 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 800-827-1000


Golf – Hunting – Fishing

Free Golf, Goddard Park Golf Course Fee Exemption for Totally Disabled Veterans: Rhode Island resident Veterans who have a 100% permanent and total, service-connected disability rating from the VA are exempt from paying any fees to play golf at the Goddard Park Golf Course. For more information call the Clubhouse at Goddard Memorial State Park from April 1st through the 3rd Saturday in November at 401-884-9834 or year-round at Division Headquarters at 401-667-6200.

Free Rhode Island Hunting and Fishing Licenses for 100% Disabled Veterans: A Veteran who has a 100% disability rating from the VA is eligible for free Rhode Island hunting and fishing licenses.

No cost licenses are available if you are:

·       over 65 AND a Rhode Island resident

·       a veteran with 100% disability status from the Department of Veterans Affairs

·       a person with 100% total disability status from the Social Security Administration

To apply in person at DEM, please bring a photo ID and an ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. (directions)

To apply by mail, please complete an application and mail the application and a copy of your photo ID and the ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Please allow two weeks for processing.

The address to obtain your license in person or by mail is:
DEM Licensing Office
235 Promenade Street, Room 360
Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-3576

To purchase online, you will be required to certify that you have an ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). You will also be required to enter the date the decision expires. The Department will audit compliance with the certification and may, at any time, request a copy of the current DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Failure to submit the documentation by the date requested may result in the suspension of your fishing and hunting license. Also, Rhode Island General Law 11-18-1 prohibits giving false documents to an agent, employee, or public official. The penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to one year.

Rhode Island Hunting and Fishing Benefits for Service Members and Veterans: 

Rhode Island offers several hunting and fishing benefits to Service members and Veterans. A short description of each is listed below. Applicants are required to show documentation proving eligibility when they apply:

· Active-Duty Service members – Military ID

· Veterans – DD214

· Disabled Veterans – VA Disability Certification Letter

Applicants can apply online at Rhode Island Outdoors, in person at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Office of Boating Registration and Licenses in Providence (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.), at an Authorized In-Person Sales Agent, or they can mail applications to:

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Room 360
Providence, RI 02908
Phone: 401-222-3576

Learn more about FREE Rhode Island Hunting , Fishing, State Parks, and Golf  Benefits for Service Members and VeteransHERE.


Free Rhode Island State Park Passes for 100% Disabled Veterans: 

Rhode Island offers the State Park Disability Pass for use at any state-owned recreational facility to disabled Veterans who have a 100% service-connected disability rating from the VA. The State Park Disability Pass authorizes free admission and parking but does not exempt the following:

· Licensing fees

· Camping fees

· Picnic table fees

· Specialized facility use fees

· Use of equestrian areas

· Performing art centers

· Game fields fees

· Mule shed fees

If the disabled Veteran cannot drive, the vehicle transporting the Veteran will not be charged. Veterans must apply in person at the Rhode Island State Parks and Recreation Headquarters and are required to show official documentation (dated within the past year) from the VA that states they have a 100% service-connected disability.

Rhode Island State Parks and Recreation Headquarters
1100 Tower Hill Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Phone: 401-667-6200
Email: [email protected]


RESOURCES  & ongoing groups 

Below are all the groups the Providence Vet Center is currently offering.  As this list changes, I will provide updates. Please send me any questions that you may have, thank you for your time! 

***All Vet Center Groups require that the Veteran be enrolled with the Vet Center prior to attending. To check eligibility or for questions, please contact the Vet Center at (401) 739-0167 or reach out to our Veteran Outreach Program Specialist (VOPS) via email at [email protected]*** 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Group (PTSD) – 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (Group is only active September through May) 

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and Vietnam Veterans PTSD Group – 2nd and 4th  Wednesday of the month from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. 

Vietnam Veteran PTSD Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 10:30 – 12:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. 

Art Expression Group – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation New Dawn (OND) Group – Every Wednesday from 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Stress Management – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Low Impact Walking  Group – Every Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Guitar 4 Veterans – Every Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 p.m. 

Monday Mindfulness Group – Every Monday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Yoga Group – Every Friday from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. 

Moral Injury Group – Every Friday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Modern Warrior Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 2:30 – 4:00 pm. 


Discounts for Veterans 


No Problem Plumbing and Heating LLC 15% military discount, ask for Ron Gaynor, (401) 568-6666. Veterans must provide proof of eligibility with a VA Card, VA ID Card, or RI State license with veteran identification. 


Applebee’s – Military Discount. With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty. Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021 

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID 


Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Bass Pro Shops – Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source). 

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount – “Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items. Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through 

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer. 

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type. 

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY! – We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 10% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at 3 select locations: Tioque Ave, Coventry RI – Bald Hill Road, Warwick RI – Park Ave, Cranston RI 

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get: 1. Create an account. Log in to Michaels Rewards. 2. Get verified. Provide your military information to get verified, instantly. 3. Go shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout. 

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21. 


If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward to: [email protected]:  the business’s name, location, and military and veteran discount offered.

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, [email protected], ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)  


To read all columns in this series go to:  

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.