98 STAT. 2726
PUBLIC LAW 98-542—OCT. 24, 1984 (6) As of the date of the enactment of this Act, there are sixtysix federally sponsored research projects being conducted relating to herbicides containing dioxin, at a cost to the Federal Government in excess of $130,000,000 and, as of 1981, federally sponsored research projects relating to ionizing radiation were costing the Federal Government more than $115,000,000. (7) The initial results of one project—an epidemiological study, conducted by the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, of the health status of the "Ranch Hand" veterans who carried out the loading and aerial spraying of herbicides containing dioxin in Vietnam and in the process came into direct skin contact with such herbicides in their most concentrated liquid form—were released on February 24, 1984, and contained the conclusion "that there is insufficient evidence to support a cause and effect relationship between herbicide exposure and adverse health in the Ranch Hand group at this time". (8) The "film badges" which were originally issued to members of the Armed Forces in connection with the atmospheric nuclear test program have previously constituted a primary source of dose information for veterans (and survivors of veterans) filing claims for Veterans' Administration disability compensation or dependency and indemnity compensation in connection with exposure to radiation. (9) These film badges often provide an incomplete measure of radiation exposure, since they were not capable of recording inhaled, ingested, or neutron doses (although the Defense Nuclear Agency currently has the capability to reconstruct individual estimates of such doses), were not issued to most of the participants in nuclear tests, often provided questionable readings because they were shielded during the detonation, and were worn for only limited periods during and after each nuclear detonation. (10) Standards governing the reporting of dose estimates in connection with radiation-related claims for Veterans' Administration disability compensation vary among the several branches of the Armed Forces, and no uniform minimum standards exist. (11) The Veterans' Administration has not promulgated permanent regulations setting forth specific guidelines, standards, and criteria for the adjudication of claims for Veterans' Administration disability compensation based on exposure to herbicides containing dioxin or to ionizing radiation. (12) Such claims (especially those involving health effects with long latency periods) present adjudicatory issues which are significantly different from issues generally presented in claims based upon the usual types of injuries incurred in military service. (13) It has always been the policy of the Veterans' Administration and is the policy of the United States, with respect to individual claims for service connection of diseases and disabilities, that when, after consideration of all evidence and material of record, there is an approximate balance of positive and negative evidence regarding the merits of an issue material to the determination of a claim, the benefit of the doubt in resolving each such issue shall be given to the claimant.