Friday, July 24, 2009

Institutes of Medicine Report on Agent Orange


From 1962 to 1971, the US military sprayed herbicides over Vietnam to strip the thick jungle canopy that could conceal opposition forces, to destroy crops that those forces might depend on, and to clear tall grasses and bushes from the perimeters of US base camps and outlying firesupport bases.
Mixtures of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), picloram, and cacodylic acid made up the bulk of the herbicides sprayed.
The herbicide mixtures used were named according to the colors of identification bands painted on the storage drums; the main chemical mixture sprayed was Agent Orange (a 50:50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T). At the time of the spraying, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), the most toxic form of dioxin, was an unintended contaminant generated during the production of 2,4,5-T and so was present in Agent Orange and some other formulations sprayed in Vietnam; it is important to remember that Agent Orange is not synonymous with TCDD or dioxin.
In 1991, because of continuing uncertainty about long-term health effects of the sprayed herbicides in Vietnam veterans, Congress passed Public Law (PL) 102-4, the Agent Orange Act of 1991. That legislation directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ask the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform a comprehensive evaluation of scientific and medical information regarding the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange, other herbicides used in Vietnam, and the various components of those herbicides, including TCDD. The legislation also instructed the
Secretary to ask NAS to conduct updates every 2 years for 10 years from the date of the first report to review newly available literature and draw conclusions from the overall evidence.
In response to the first request, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened a committee, whose conclusions IOM published in 1994 in Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam (VAO). The work of later committees resulted in the publication of biennial updates (Update 1996, Update 1998, Update 2000, Update 2002, and Update 2004) and of focused reports on the scientific evidence regarding type 2 diabetes, acute myelogenous leukemia in children, and the latent period for respiratory cancer.
Enacted in 2002, PL 107-103, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, mandated that the VAO biennial updates continue through 2014. Update 2006 was the first report published under that legislation. The current update presents this committee’s review of peer-reviewed scientific reports concerning associations between health outcomes and exposure to TCDD and other chemicals in the herbicides used in Vietnam that were published in October 2006– September 2008 and the committee’s integration of this information with the previously established evidence database.

VVA to VA: Don’t Wait for Us to Die


July 24, 2009

No. 09-24

Mokie Porter

VVA to VA: Don’t Wait for Us to Die: Grant Association to Agent Orange Exposure For Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Hypertension

( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) – After reviewing scientific studies of the past few years, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has determined there is “limited or suggestive evidence” of an association between Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease with exposure to Agent Orange.

“We thank the IOM for their efforts and applaud them for their conclusions,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “Now, we urge the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to immediately make Vietnam veterans with either of these conditions eligible for disability compensation as well as health care, and we will petition him to do precisely this.

“We also urge the Secretary to reconsider hypertension, which the IOM, in its 2006 report concerning Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange, also found elevated evidence of an association,” Rowan said.

“We do believe that the IOM must focus on what we consider to be the very real association between a veteran’s exposure while serving in Southeast Asia and the birth defects, learning disabilities, and cancers, not only in his children but in his grandchildren as well,” Rowan said. “We continue to get far too many calls from the children of veterans who wonder if their father’s experiences in Vietnam –and along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969–has any connection with their health issues and now those of their children.

“Let’s not wait until we die, and for our children to be forgotten,” Rowan said. “The time for real action is now.”

-- 30 --
end of Press Release

View the complete Report at:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

VA Blue Water Claims

from the Retiree Assistance Office

reprinted in The Texas Vietnam Veterans News

A bill in Congress provides a seemingly straightforward answer to a question that has vexed tens of thousands of Americans who served in the U.S. military. Who is a Vietnam veteran? The answer is vitally important to Navy personnel who served in
Vietnam’s territorial waters. For now, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of a Vietnam veteran does not include these men and women. Legislation
introduced in the House would change that, clearing the way for Navy veterans to get disability payments and free health care for ailments linked to the herbicide
Agent Orange, from Type II diabetes to a variety of cancers. At stake: $3 billion in benefits. The VA says the pool of veterans who would become eligible for benefits under the bill is 800,000, a number critics accuse the VA of exaggerating to inflate costs that may scare Congress. Before 2002, sailors with the Vietnam Service Medal – given to those who served in the theater of war on land or sea – automatically got benefits, whether they were ground troops or in the Navy. But the VA, which did not return repeated calls for comment,changed its policy in 2002, saying common sense dictated that Agent Orange was used on land alone and therefore couldn’t harm Navy personnel.
Bart Stitchman, co-director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said the VA simply changed its definition of who was eligible without notice. The VA is
required to advertise any rule change impacting benefits in the Federal Register, allowing a period of public comment before making a change. The VA, Stitchman said,
violated federal law by ignoring that requirement. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Law and Policy, Dr. Mark Brown, director of Environmental Agents Service at the
VA, made a surprising admission: Science did not back up the VA’s policy on the Navy. Calling Navy veterans “non-Vietnam veterans,” reflecting the VA’s policy that
sailors don’t qualify, he wrote, “There is no obvious scientific or public health basis for excluding these non-Vietnam War veterans” from the presumption that their illnesses are caused by Agent Orange. To address that “apparent inequity,” Brown wrote, the VA paid benefits to those Navy veterans who could prove they were exposed to Agent Orange, which ground troops need not do. But proving exposure 40 years after the fact is often an impossible hurdle, Navy veterans say.
In 2004, a Navy veteran appealed the VA’s denial of his Agent Orange claim in a veterans court set up to handle appeals of VA cases. The case became a precedent-setter.
In 2006, that court ruled in favor of the veteran, saying the VA’s exclusion of Navy veterans was too restrictive.
But last year, the VA won the case on appeal to a higher court, which decided its rules on Agent Orange were reasonable. The VA then changed its rules one more time, closing another avenue for Navy veterans seeking benefits. After long holding that Navy veterans who served on inland waterways, like harbors and rivers, could get benefits, the VA decided a harbor did not qualify. The VA has argued it was not the intent of Congress to include the Navy when it adopted a law in 1991 providing compensation for Agent Orange.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, has introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 (H.R.2254) to include Navy
veterans. He has more than 40 co-sponsors. “These guys have suffered long enough,” Filner said. “It’s going to cost money. But that’s the cost of going to war. We’re
spending trillions bailing out everybody else. Let’s bail out Vietnam veterans.” The chances for passage are uncertain. Filner said lawmakers may be reluctant to add costs to the federal budget in an economic crisis. A similar bill introduced last year failed.
In the interim on 30 MAY the Texas House and Senate passed the Restore Agent Orange Presumptive Diseases to “Blue Water” Navy Veterans [SCR 38] memorializing Congress to restore the presumption of a service connection for Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served on the inland waterways, territorial waters, and in the airspace of the Republic of Vietnam.
This is not a law as such. The Texas Legislature is telling the U.S. Congress that Texas wants the U.S. Congress to force the VA to recognize Agent Orange as a medically causal chemical for Navy personnel who were in the theater of Vietnam.

H.R.2254 : The Agent Orange Equity Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam.
Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 5/5/2009) Cosponsors (29)
Committees: House Veterans' Affairs
Latest Major Action: 5/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Veterans Radio Update

Listen to Agent Orange show here:

CLICK on July 18 to listen

Hear George Claxton and Sandie Wilson discuss the health effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Agent Orange, We Live It Every Day

(Washington, D.C.) -- The Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., (AVVA) applauds the National Organization of Disabilities and Ford Foundation for the release today of U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later.

Said Elaine Simmons, National President of AVVA, “As the families, friends, and supporters of our nation‟s Vietnam veterans, we know, only too well, the long-lasting, debilitating effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin, because we face them in our daily lives, as we attend to our sick and disabled.”

“We find it ironic, however, that this brutally honest assessment--which concludes that, forty years after the war, “It is still not too late to correct lapses in the nation‟s treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War”--is the byproduct of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, a group whose primary missions are to raise awareness and mobilize resources .for the Dioxin damage to Vietnam, the country, and its people.

“Unfortunately, it is „way too late‟ for so many our veterans--we remember them at the In Memory Plaque, when we visit The Wall, in Washington D.C. As families, we stand together, way too often, at the funerals of our beloved veterans, who are dying at a rate, from Agent Orange related diseases that breaks our hearts on a daily basis.

“Lovingly, we scrutinize our new grandbabies, praying that we won‟t see evidence of birth defects, learning disabilities, and cancers, which seem to strike us at a rate that is so much higher than our non-veteran families Agent Orange, we say.” And if Agent Orange rears its ugly head, we pray we can help our children learn to live with these disabilities and diseases.

“We will continue to hope. If it takes addressing the effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam to focus on addressing the lapses in care in America, then we will demand that our nation, when providing aid to our former enemy will, finally, address the needs of our veterans and their families at home.

The Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America is a national, nonprofit membership and service organization dedicated to advancing the full range of issues affecting all veterans, their families, and their communities. Our more than 6,000 members are families, friends, and supporters of Vietnam veterans, as well as Vietnam veterans and veterans of other eras.

Veterans Radio - Saturday 18 July 2009

Saturday 18 July 2009
9:00-10:00 AM Eastern

Agent Orange

We have all heard of Agent Orange and what it has done to Vietnam Veterans – right?
Sadly, you have heard little about it. You have not heard how it may affect future generations – perhaps your own; how it may affect you, and how its most dangerous components may be in use around you… and…even by you.

• What made up Agent Orange?
• Is cancer the only consequence?
• Vietnam Vets - the only casualties?
• Was it used elsewhere?
• What about their descendants?
• Might it affect your descendants?
• Can I buy it off the shelf?
• What about Vietnam today?

The answers to the above, sadly, may shock and anger you.

This week join host Gary Lillie and Agent Orange activists, Vietnam Veterans of America members George Claxton, Sandie Wilson and Jim Doyle. They will tell you things about Agent Orange that are sure to make you demand action – to protect not only you, but more importantly, to protect future generations.

Every Saturday on WDEO (990-AM Ann Arbor/Detroit), WMAX (1440-AM,Saginaw), WDEO-FM (99.5 FM, Naples, FL), KAGY (1510-AM Port Sulphur/ New Orleans, LA), KIXW (960-AM, Apple Valley CA), and KMRC (1430-AM Morgan City, LA), or at…

Veterans Radio is dedicated to all the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces of the United States of America. Our mission is to provide veterans with a voice, to give them a forum where they are able to discuss their issues…and tell their stories

Veterans Radio – the voice of America’s veterans --->

Admiral Zumwalt’s Legacy

This article was written by George C. Duggins, first African-American president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (1997-2001) on the occasion of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr.'s passing.

George Duggins passed away on August 1, 2005 of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a result of his exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange during two tours of duty in Vietnam.

We honor these two American heroes by answering their Call to Action.

The VVA Veteran
December 1999/January 2000
President’s Message
Admiral Zumwalt’s Legacy

By George C. Duggins

I speak for every member of Vietnam Veterans of America in mourning the death and honoring the memory of U.S. Navy Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. The commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and later Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Zumwalt died January 2. As an organization and as individuals, VVA must recommit itself to Admiral Zumwalt’s efforts to find justice for the victims of Agent Orange. We can best honor the man and follow his example of leadership by maintaining pressure on government agencies and policy-making bodies.

Admiral Zumwalt’s mission was to force those in power to take responsibility for their actions and admit that Agent Orange killed more than vegetation. For Admiral Zumwalt, it was simple.

It was about the people who selflessly answered their nation’s call to duty and served honorably in a war that divided the country and which left many wounds in the fabric of our national character.

It was about their children and grandchildren who, through no fault of their own, are the unintended victims of a policy that saved lives in Vietnam , only to take them years after the war ended.

It was about the families who suffer quietly as they watch their veterans endure the hardships of sickness and hopelessness and then bury them, knowing all along Agent Orange was the cause of death.

Between 1968 and 1970--the height of the Vietnam War--Admiral Zumwalt had a tough job: commanding the fleet of American naval river boats that patrolled South Vietnam ’s Mekong Delta. He developed the successful strategy of cutting riverine supplies from Cambodia to the Viet Cong guerillas. He also ordered the spraying of Agent Orange over the Delta.

Zumwalt’s son, former U.S. Navy Lt. Elmo R. Zumwalt III, commanded a Brown Water Navy river boat where his father had ordered the spraying of the dioxin-contaminated defoliant to deny cover to the enemy.

Admiral Zumwalt’s crusade began after his son was diagnosed with cancer in 1983.

Mirroring his commitment to troops while in Vietnam , Zumwalt became a bold and forthright spokesman for veterans and their families who have suffered from the transgenerational effects of Agent Orange contamination.

His voice was strong and clear: the government has an obligation to address the issue honestly and to provide services and compensation for those who have been injured.

Just as it was our generation of servicemen and servicewomen who compelled the VA to recognize Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a legitimate diagnosis, we now must redouble our efforts to force them to face their duty in the matter of Agent Orange.

Our obligation to the memory of Admiral Zumwalt demands that we vow never to surrender on this issue. It is much too important to allow it to be trivialized by those who would have us believe that it is "junk science" or the ranting of malcontents.

We know better.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dayna and her son Keeyan - Keeyan is 8. He weighs 48 pounds

by Jim Belshaw

Dayna and Keeyan's story is brought to you by The Missouri Vietnam Veterans Foundation.

Dayna Dupuis Theriot writes a letter filled with questions, not the least of which is to whom she should send it for answers. She scours the Internet looking for such answers and finds only tantalizing clues, or more to the point, one clue, one connector between her son and the various abnormalities that have been visited upon him. The clue repeatedly shows itself, but never to the degree that she can say it is the answer with any certainty.

“Every time I put in one of Keeyan’s abnormalities with that information about my dad, Agent Orange in the first thing that would pop up,” she said.

. With the exception of a too small body, his physical appearance gives no indication that her young son knows firsthand the medical mysteries that Dayna includes in her letter:

“Esophageal Atresia/stricture
“Dyslexia and learning disabilities
“Speech and hearing problems
“Asthma and allergies so severe that Keeyan is on Xolair injections (normally for people who are 12 years of age or older according to the Xolair Web site)
“Illecolitis (a form of Crohn’s disease)
“Premature Ventricular Contractions (heart disease).”

Her father, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army, is under treatment for PTSD, but has never been diagnosed with a disease connected to Agent Orange. Nonetheless, pointing to the presence of Agent Orange in her Internet research, Dayna finds yet another clue hard to pin down .

“My father was in an area that was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange,” she said. “He’s been through a lot. I don’t know how he would handle it if we found out this kind of thing was transferred from his body to us. It would have a powerful emotional effect on him. I would hate for him to blame himself. What I’m doing now is just looking for answers. You don’t know who else is out there with the same problems.”

Dip in anywhere in her letter and “powerful emotional effect” becomes understatement.

“My son, Keeyan, was born August 2, 2000, weighting only 4 lbs., 14 oz.,” she writes. “He had problems before coming home with his sugar levels and body temperature. We stayed in NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) for five days before allowing us to go home. He then came home to vomiting, choking, and almost losing him in our home.

“He was checked by his pediatrician to discover his esophagus was strictured. It was narrowed so severely that it only allowed a few drops in at a time and not even his own mucus could be digested. It is similar to Esophageal Atresia. He was admitted and the surgeon dilated the esophagus. It lasted two weeks before collapsing again. So in September 2000, only 4 weeks old, a thoracotomy was done. They would cut out the narrowed part and resection the damaged esophagus.

As her letter continues, it takes on a peculiar phenomenon of language, one in which mothers become conversant in a medical language usually reserved only for specialists, men and women who have spent the greater part of their lives studying such things. It falls to mothers to understand medical terms and procedures that would leave most people scratching their heads.

This is not the case with the mothers of children like Keeyan Theriot. They understand the complications because the complications become the stuff of daily life.

“After the procedure was done, he assured us that Keeyan would be fine,” she writes. “He then began vomiting, choking, and the esophagus was so irritated that it began to bleed. We began PH probe studies to find out what was going on. The studies showed reflux and it was really bad. So they put him on a drug given to patients with esophageal cancer to be able to tolerate feedings. It didn’t help …

“We went to see a Pediatric Surgeon for Rare Anomalies. He gave us a few options … He mentioned doing a fundoplication/nissen so he would not be able to vomit. The procedure was done at age 4 1/2 … only to be discouraged by vomiting and bleeding …"

Some of the questions Dayna asks are the same questions asked by the wives of other Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange:
+If the children of women veterans are determined to suffer from such service connected disabilities, why are the children of male veterans excluded? (Dayna's son, as well as the children of other women, were born with conditions that are on the presumptive list for children of women veterans.)
+Studies show more defects in women than men. Why?
+There are cases of second and third generations, but no proven studies. Why?
+Are there more studies planned for future generations?
+In the small study of 24 Vietnam veterans, they all had some type of chromosomal changes. Why was the study stopped?

It is a proven fact, Dayna points out, that more children of Vietnam veterans suffer learning disabilities, health issues, asthma/allergies, birth defects, and other health issues. “They all seem familiar to me,” she says. Kids are also born with rare disorders that may show up later.

“It’s been rough,” she said. “You always have in the back of your mind that (answers) would leave you with some closure and you would be done with this. I mean, you have to live with it, but at least you know why and you say, OK, this is the way life is going to be. We’re going to have to live with it, like it or not. This has been my life for the last eight years. I have no idea how I get through this. It takes a lot.”

The Legacy of Agent Orange

This article was Published in The Fresno Bee online on Saturday, Jun. 27, 2009

by Jim Doyle

On June 2, the Ford Foundation released the results of a lengthy study on the effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin, and confirmed what Vietnam veterans have known for years: This stuff will kill you, or worse, pass to your children and grandchildren and cause a range of disabilities and diseases that will profoundly affect their lives.

Every good parent does their best to assure a better life for their children, irrespective of time and place. Many Vietnam veterans, however, have unintentionally left a disturbing legacy -- birth defects or damaged genes that carry the potential risk of birth defects in succeeding generations.

This troubling inheritance is directly linked to the harm caused as a result of our exposure to Dioxin, an unintended by product of the combination of 2-4-5-T and 2,4,D that created the herbicide more commonly known as Agent Orange.

Over a period of nearly 10 years, about 21 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed over more than 10 million acres in Vietnam. The VA presumes that veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. It was in the air and in the water. Dioxin was one of the more prevalent culprits at Times Beach and Love Canal.

Agent Orange was composed primarily of two commonly used commercial weed killers, the combination of which creates the chemical 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), known to be toxic in humans. One of these ingredients (2,4,5,T was banned by the World Health Organization in 1970. TCDD accumulates in human fatty tissue, where it is neither readily metabolized nor excreted.

Over time, the toxin accumulates and the effects can remain. In April 1970, the federal government found evidence that TCDD had caused birth defects in laboratory mice, but it was still used in Vietnam for nearly eight more months.

Children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans suffer from a wide spectrum of conditions including Achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism to Williams Syndrome, a rare disorder caused by "erasure" of about 26 genes from a specific chromosome that can cause mental retardation, a distinctive facial appearance and cardiovascular problems for starters.

Cleft lip and palate, congenital heart disease, fused digits, hip dysplasia, neural tube defects and undescended testicles -- the list goes on.

Who drafted these kids?

Physical, mental and emotional disabilities in our children, and now a growing number of anecdotal reports of these same birth defects turning up in our grandchildren haunt Vietnam veteran parents.

These are the result of wounds that will never be acknowledged by a Purple Heart medal, wounding yet another generation.

When will the casualties of the Vietnam War end? After 30 years of research, the evidence is firmly on the side of Vietnam veterans, both male and female. Despite this evidentiary flood, Mom and Dad are still running the gauntlet of rules, regulations, administrative decisions, legal opinions, forms, physical examinations, evaluations and plain old indifference in an attempt to get treatment and compensation, not only for themselves but for their children.

Again it must be asked, who drafted these kids?

After more than 30 years, isn't it long past time for this issue to be settled?

The Ford Foundation report calls for improved diagnosis and treatment, and continued study of the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange. It also appeals for expanded care, not only for veterans but for their children suffering next-generation effects from their parents' toxic exposures.

In the face of the growing scientific evidence and the conclusions of the foundation study report the government still refuses to fully acknowledge the friendly fire toll of Agent Orange, now visited upon another generation.

Vietnam veteran moms and dads must focus on what will be there for their children after the flag on their casket has been presented.

The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans who endure daily struggles with diseases and conditions that are a direct result of their exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals used in Vietnam. There is little, if any, serious dispute of that fact. Millions of Vietnamese also suffer the same illnesses and die the same agonized death, and their children too.

Just as Traumatic Brain Injury has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so to has the long-festering wound of Agent Orange become the signature wound for Vietnam veterans.

Before his death in January 2000, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and later Chief of Naval Operations, fought to force those in power to take responsibility for their actions and admit that Agent Orange killed more than vegetation.

Zumwalt ordered the spraying of Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta and it ultimately lead to the cancer that killed his Navy lieutenant son, Elmo Zumwalt III at 42. Grandson Elmo IV was born in 1977 with a severe learning disability.

For Admiral Zumwalt, it was simple.

When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a World War II veteran whose son served in Vietnam and died from cancer, recuses himself from Agent Orange cases, there is a reason.

Vietnam veterans are not asking for a handout, they are just asking for some truth. Oh, and a return on the investment they made in freedom four decades ago. There can be no recession in that account.

Ford Foundation Report on Agent Orange

Read the Ford Foundation Report on Agent Orange at:

Call To Action

Waiting For An Army To Die Won't Work When A Significant Number of Vietnam Veterans Are Reporting Children and/or Grandchildren With Birth Defects Related to Exposure to Agent Orange:

by Mokie Porter

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.the Ford Foundation, announced that it is funding and launching of a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam

The Ford Foundation and the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin are hoping to mobilize resources and raise awareness for the continuing environmental health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from the use of A/O, with the end goal of gaining the support of Congress, American business, and the American people to direct U.S. dollars to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. When representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) asked at the June 2nd meeting whether the condition of American veterans, their children, and grandchildren would also be a subject of the public relations campaign, the answer from the chair of the Working Group, came back "We have given you the report."

The June 1, 2009, report, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," which was done by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, concludes that it is not "too late to correct the lapses in the nation's treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War." It goes on to state that "One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations." for report and VVA reactions.

The report includes five detailed recommendations for greater clarity and justice: (1) Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families; (2) Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies; (3) Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren; (4) A Fresh Approach to Research; and (5) Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities.

If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign will focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but not American victims of Agent Orange, then veterans need to launch our own grassroots publicity campaign to gain the support of Congress, American business, and the American people for the unfinished Agent Orange agenda for American veterans and their families.

The Task Ahead: Don't Mourn, Organize and Publicize in Your Own Communities

This is not just a VVA issue.VVA members, chapters, and state councils need to reach out and work with other veterans organizations in their communities and to be a force multiplier. Many of our members, of course, are members of other veterans organizations, so this will help.

The brunt of the fallout of this one-sided, public-awareness campaign will rest on our members at the grassroots, in chapters and state councils, where the network exists for our veteran families. We cannot allow those veterans outside the VA/VSO network to find out about their A/O exposure from the perspective of the Vietnamese victims, as they watch the Ford Foundation media campaign unfold in print and on television.

While, at this point, we know very little about the when and where of the Ford Foundation media campaign, we expect that it will begin this summer and continue through the year. We anticipate a multi-media barrage, with Ford's efforts directed toward the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, celebrities, etc. We have not located the budget for this endeavor yet, but expect that, minimally, it will be in the range of six figures.

This is not about animosity toward Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but it is a response to the telling of only one side of the story by the Ford Foundation media campaign. That's not the right approach to take and may well create a great deal of pain in those veterans, whose "welcome home" nearly forty years ago, was a slap in the face, or disdain and distance, and who will now, once more, be reminded of the esteem in which their government holds them, as they watch while the Ford Foundation media campaign focuses on the suffering of their former enemy.

What do we need to create awareness? We need real stories about real people to convince the American people and Congress that our A/O problems are real.

We already have two excellent stories, though still in the rough draft stage. More will be needed. If each state would identify at least one family with a child or grandchild affected by A/O, willing to share their story, we will begin to have ammunition to use locally and nationally with the media and with legislators.

One idea that has been suggested is holding veterans health forums at the chapter and state council levels. That's a good way to get local media attention, and a forum to discuss the issue of A/O, as well as all the host of illnesses and maladies associated with military service. It would likely be useful to have a nuts-and-bolts, how-to plan for this type of health forum.

What we need is something that could be shared with other states and chapters, like a "checklist for organizers of local health forums," or a document that has tips for putting on a "high-interest, high attendance, high media coverage veterans health forum in your community.

Ideas other than a veterans health forum will likely emerge, and a forum for the sharing of these ideas, info, intel, and good stories will be needed, if we are to sustain a vital campaign. What works in one area may not work in another area. Local initiative, local creativity, and local enthusiasm and energy will be essential.

This is not just about Vietnam/Agent Orange alone; it is about all toxic exposures in all theaters of our recent wars whether in Thailand, on Eglin Air Force Base, Guam, Puerto Rico, Texas, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.--the larger lesson continues to be this: The cost of war doesn't end when the guns are silent, in fact it takes a generational toll so we, as a nation, must be willing to pay the price.

(See VVA web page for report and VVA reactions. The report is also available at