THE FAILURE OF the U.S. Senate in December to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act is the latest in a long history of wrongs associated with our country’s use of Agent Orange.
Time is running short for many of the veterans who are suffering ailments that may be related to the use of lethal herbicides in the Vietnam War.
You could say the wrongs go back to the 1960s and the decision to use Agent Orange to clear the jungles of Vietnam — without knowing the possible effects on U.S. troops.
But that’s history now, and there’s nothing to be done except perhaps learn from the disaster.
What could be done is to extend to the estimated 52,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans and Marines who were on Navy ships the same Agent Orange-related benefits that those who served on the ground or on inland waterways can receive. Instead, the Department of Veterans Affairs has repeatedly chosen to deny the benefits to those who served on ships just off Vietnam.
And Congress has dragged its collective feet on legislation that would ensure sailors and Marines who patrolled the offshore waters have the same benefits as other veterans affected by Agent Orange.
When officials approved the use of the herbicides in Vietnam, they naively thought that since they would be targeting enemy areas, the dioxin in the herbicides wouldn’t harm U.S troops. They were wrong.
Then, when increasing numbers of Vietnam veterans and their families began reporting cancers, type 2 diabetes, leukemia, birth defects and other ills associated with Agent Orange, it took lawsuits and challenges all the way to the Supreme Court before veterans began to get help from the chemical companies that made the herbicides. That delay was wrong.