Monday, April 7, 2014

Agent Orange impact focus of town meeting

Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange herbicide may face a host of medical problems, as well as their children and grandchildren.

This was the focus of a town hall meeting Saturday morning at Fort Harrison VA Medical Hospital, organized by the Montana State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America.
The first such meeting in Montana, it drew about 50 vets and their family members from as far away as Kalispell and Hot Springs. It was one of about 80 VVA town meetings being held across the country.
Currently the Veterans Administration recognizes 50 illnesses or diseases connected to exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide — ranging from Parkinson’s and Hodgkin’s diseases to a host of cancers, according to meeting handouts.
However, the VVA veterans group suspects that many more diseases and health problems, particularly ones impacting children and grandchildren of Vietnam vets, are linked to Agent Orange and are not recognized by the Veterans Administration. So far, the VA recognizes 19 birth defects connected to Agent Orange for children born to female Vietnam vets, but only one of these — spina bifida — for children of both male and female vets, according to the handouts.
The main purpose of the town meetings is to reach Vietnam vets and have them learn more about the potential effects of exposure to the dioxin, said speaker Nancy S. Switzer of the VVA and the wife of a Vietnam vet.
“As a wife, mother and grandmother, Agent Orange dioxins have touched my life in an awful way,” she said.
Her husband, who was in the infantry in Vietnam and lost his leg due to a combat injury, now has prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. Her daughter has a severe learning disability, her son is suffering from a rare heart condition and her granddaughter had a severe birth defect.

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