by Lisa Chedekel
Over the years, Andy Gow of Wallingford didn’t know what to make of word that more and more of his former Air Force buddies were being diagnosed with prostate cancer or diabetes.
Then, in 2003, he got the news firsthand—he had both diseases – and began to connect the dots.
“I never had boots on the ground in Vietnam, but I know for a fact that they were spraying Agent Orange” at Udorn base in Thailand, about 10 miles from where Gow was stationed from 1967 to 1969. “A lot of the guys who are sick have filed claims with the VA, but they’ve all been rejected. It doesn’t seem right.”
Gow was among about a dozen veterans who met Tuesday in Rocky Hill for an informal discussion of Agent Orange exposure with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., state veterans affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz, and Rick Weidman, executive director for policy & government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America. Blumenthal and Schwartz convened the meeting to begin forming an action plan to help Vietnam veterans suffering from health problems connected to Agent Orange exposure get compensation from the VA.
“The health problems of our veterans who were exposed to substances used in Vietnam, without any real knowledge, are something we should not ignore,” Blumenthal told the group. “This is a step towards educating us to see what we can do.”
The group said that while the VA has taken steps to expand the list of illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, the agency has yet to recognize claims from veterans who did not serve in-country, but were exposed to residual toxins in the U.S. and other countries. That issue is of special interest in New England, where many Air Force reservists from Connecticut and Massachusetts flew out of Westover Air Force Base on planes that had been used to spray the herbicides.
READ MORE: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/health/entry/agent_orange_woes_draw_attention_from_blumenthal_national_vets_group/