Sunday, March 7, 2010

Agent Orange: Dangers Went Unnoticed

By Tara Lafemina

“Vietnam veterans that fought between 1962 and 1975 can now apply for benefits, regardless of which diseases were diagnosed,” reports the Milford (MA) Daily News.

It is about time, veterans of Vietnam get additional medical benefits. The war started over 40 years ago; now the government decided it’s time to acknowledge the effects of Agent Orange.

For years these veterans have been suffering from serious diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and leukemia. For some, the benefits may be coming too late.

I am sure that many of these veterans and others had an idea of what was causing these sufferings. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to destroy the Vietnam jungle. If Agent Orange can destroy these dense jungles, chances are it could destroy a person’s health. Within the past 40 years, scientists have discovered that these herbicides are not safe for human health. Veterans should have been taken care of many years ago; at least the talk of more help should have started before 2010.

These veterans went out, risked their lives and left their families to do what their government wanted of them. After each soldier’s tour of duty, the government should have taken full care of them. It is the least the government could have done to repay the vets. Just because these people can not serve the government anymore, does not mean they should be tossed aside.

If Agent Orange makes vets eligible for benefits, their pensions and disability payments should not be decreased. It would not be surprising if the government does something like this. If they do, it would defeat the purpose of Agent Orange benefits. It would not make the vets’ lives any easier; in fact it would not do much at all to help them.

Right now we are in Iraq fighting a war. Many people believe our current war is a lost cause and wasting money, just as they believed of the Vietnam War. A concern this country should have is what is going to happen to the people fighting in Iraq. We have to know if it is going to take the government 40 years to acknowledge Iraq may be a cause of diseases to soldiers fighting now.

What we should avoid is a second generation of armed forces being treated unfairly. We should look at the effects of Agent Orange on the last wave of veterans. We have to be sure it is not a repeat experience of healthcare that is less then desirable. Yes, the difference is people today are signing up for the Army, Marines, etc. But, they are part of these services to fight for their country, not to develop a disease that will hinder them for life. I do not know if there are any chemicals in Iraq that could cause diseases; if there is, something has to be done to get rid of them. At least make sure the armed forces are getting all the benefits they deserve.

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