An agency that provides legal advice to disadvantaged Vietnam veterans and another that enables veterans to participate in the Outward Bound program were among eight social service groups awarded grants Thursday from the settlement of the Agent Orange lawsuit.

Other programs included respite care for severely disabled children of Vietnam veterans in New Jersey and a housing program in New Mexico for families of veterans receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.The eight grants, totaling $581,000, are the first of many to be allocated from a $52 million fund over the next seven to 10 years.

The money is part of a $240 million settlement of a class action suit brought more than 10 years ago by veterans who claimed exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War caused cancer, birth defects in their children and other illnesses.

The chemical was sprayed over Southeast Asia during the 1960s by the U.S. military, which hoped to deprive communist troops of crops and cover.

Dennis Rhoades, executive director of the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, said the grants would provide "unique, distinct and meaningful services to Vietnam veterans and their families."

He described them as "flagship grants" that would form the basis of the program's direction.

A large portion of the settlement, $170 million, has been allocated to the Agent Orange Veteran Payment Program, which provides cash payments to totally disabled Vietnam veterans and to the widows or children of veterans who died.