Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Agent Orange: Not too Late to Provide Help

By Bill Pivetz                                       

Agent Orange was a mixture of chemicals used to help the United States military during the Vietnam War. These chemicals were used as an herbicide to clear out the dense Vietnam forest, depriving the guerrillas of food and cover.

It wasn’t until many years later when the effects of Agent Orange were revealed. The Vietnam Red Cross has reported as many as three million people were infected by the chemicals, included at least 150,000 children born with birth defects. The Red Cross estimated that about 400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or maimed by health effects of Agent Orange.

The Vietnamese weren’t the only ones affected by Agent Orange. Vietnam veterans came home thinking they won, but they might as well have lost the war. The veterans who served in the Southeast Asian war had increased risks of many forms of cancer and many different disorders. These soldiers were lied to as they were told not to worry and that the chemicals were harmless. Back home, many of their wives were having miscarriages or children born with birth defects as a relation to being exposed to Agent Orange.

Now, almost 50 years later and Agent Orange is still being talked about. An article by Eric K. Shinseki, the Secretary  of Veterans Affairs, published on, noted that veterans who were exposed to the herbicides and suffer from one of the “presumed” illnesses do not have to prove association between their issues and military service. This allows veterans to overcome evidentiary requirements that would make it difficult to qualify for VA healthcare and other benefits.

At the time of publication, the VA expected up to 150,000 veterans to submit Agent Orange claims over the next 12 to 18 months. Veteran Affairs plans to also review about 90,000 of previously denied claims. The article identifies veterans who could have been exposed to the herbicide as those who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.

This rule was long overdue. It distributes some sort of justice to those who suffered, and still suffer, from the effects of Agent Orange for the past 40 years. This is a rule that should have been established many years ago.

The effects of Agent Orange have been known for years, but the VA wanted major evidence that linked the veterans to their military service while in Vietnam. That kind of proof was hard for the veterans to come up with, thus they often were left untreated for the effects of Agent Orange.

This is a step in the right direction for Vietnam veterans. The White House website allowed readers who know a veteran who served during the Vietnam War to direct them to the VA website and file a claim.

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