A Connecticut veteran who has spent years trying to gain Agent Orange benefits for veterans who served in Korea in 1967 has persuaded the Veterans of Foreign Wars and two other veterans’ organizations to take his case before Congress.
On Wednesday, VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. will ask Congress to pass a law requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to grant VA health care and compensation to veterans who served in Korea in 1967 if they have illnesses linked to Agent Orange.
Biedrzycki’s prepared testimony states that current VA rules exclude many veterans “who now suffer from diseases and illnesses that have been directly linked to the chemical defoliant.”
Carlos Fuentes, VFW senior legislative associate, said documents provided by Army veteran Eugene Clarke, of Redding, swayed the national organization to seek the benefits change through Congress. The documents include proof of test spraying of defoliants in Korea in 1967 and of veterans’ exposure to Korean government spraying. Fuentes said VFW efforts to convince the VA to change its policy have been unsuccessful. The VFW claims 1.4 million members.
“After working on this for so long, it’s heartwarming,” Clarke said of the VFW support. “The VFW getting behind it is a really, really big deal,” he added.
Five years ago, Clarke found information on the Internet that he and other veterans who served in Korea in the 1960s may have been exposed to Agent Orange.
“I got very angry and hurt that they didn’t tell us this stuff was going on,” said Clarke, 69, a retired stockbroker and a VFW member.