Rep. Filner's Bill Offers Hope
By MICHAEL UHL
If 'justice for all' were more than misty sentiment appended to a perfunctory 'pledge of allegiance,' H.R. 2634 — a bill seeking broad and long delayed remedial action on behalf of all Vietnam Era victims of Agent Orange — would sail through Congress and gain swift approval from the President.
Introduced by California Congressman Bob Filner, the senior Democrat on the House Veteran's Affairs Committee, the proposed 'Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act' challenges our lawmakers and our nation to finally confront and repair the chemically induced public health and environmental wreckage that remains the most shameful and unresolved legacy of the U.S. war against Vietnam.
Why is this bill necessary? Let's review the facts as the proposed bill presents them:
*From 1961 to 1971, approximately 19,000,000 gallons of herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, were sprayed over the southern region of Vietnam, much of it contaminated with deadly dioxin.
*Potentially 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to herbicides in this period, resulting in chronic illnesses, shortened life spans, and high rates of birth deformities. Even today, exposure continues in contaminated areas, designated dioxin 'hot spots,' and through contact with the food chain.
*Public health resources in Vietnam are inadequate for the necessary care and treatment of Agent Orange victims, many of whom reside in remote rural areas far from available medical and custodial services.
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