From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Remember the Children

By Susan Schnall

In every country, in every culture we believe that our children are our future. Our children are to be loved, treasured, cared for. As adults, we take that responsibility as the most important work we do in life. It is our nature to protect our children from harm. We watch over them when they're ill, we cry with them when they're in pain, we protect them from those who would harm them. But how do we prevent hurt from an unseen enemy? From something we carry in our bodies and transmit to them unknowingly?

It is estimated that between 1961 and 1975 about 20 million gallons of herbicides, including 13 million gallons of Agent Orange, containing more than 500 pounds of dioxin were sprayed multiple times over 5.5 million acres of land in southern Vietnam. The VA recognizes that certain cancer and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service. Covered diseases also include heart disease and progressive neurological illnesses.

And dioxin not only impacts the lives of those who served in Vietnam, causing deteriorating illnesses, but it can also be transmitted to their children, by causing changes in cells that may last for multiple generations. These cell mutations cause birth defects and other problems for the children and grandchildren of those exposed.

The Institute of Medicine for the past several years has noted that, "it is considerably more plausible than previously believed that exposure to the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam might have caused paternally mediated transgenerational effects...attributable to the TCCD contaminant in Agent Orange."

It has been over 52 years since the US first used Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam. It is time that the United States government recognize and assume responsibility and accountability for the use of these chemicals that destroyed the land in south Vietnam, directly caused the death of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese, were responsible for creating debilitating illnesses in those sprayed, and continues to cause birth defects in our children. How do we protect our children from this unseen enemy? And how do we care for them?

Currently the only birth defect covered by the VA for the children of male American soldiers who served in Vietnam is spina bifida. The VA does recognize a wide range of about 18 birth defects as associated with women Veterans' service in Vietnam. These children are eligible for VA compensation, health care, and vocational training. We must demand that our government care for all those who have been injured by this deadly poison.

Studies have shown that about 4.8 million Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans were exposed to Agent Orange during the spraying. Many other Vietnamese were, or continue to be, exposed to Agent Orange through contact with the environment and food that was contaminated. The children of those exposed now suffer from illnesses and disabilities.

Please contact your representative in the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2519: To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide assistance for individuals affected by exposure to Agent Orange.

This legislation would: provide health care and social services for the affected children of American Vietnam veterans, provide health care and social services for affected Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans, and remediate the land which remains contaminated even today.

Please join the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign to demand justice for those who have suffered so much. Contact your congressional representative and ask her/him to become a co-sponsor of HR 2519 of 2013.

Notice for those who were officially part of "were in the class for," the Agent Orange Lawsuit MDL381. It is now possible for you to obtain your medical records used in the lawsuit. These records have been hidden for many years, but are now available. You will need the Social Security Number for the veteran(s) concerned. You should write to the following address and use the case number (MDL381).

Washington National Records Center National Archives and Records Administration
4205 Suitland Road
Suitland, MD 20746-8001
Attn: Agent Orange Claimant Files.

Susan Schnall is a co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. She is currently a professor in Health Policy and Planning at NYU and a member of VFP and APHA. She is on the VVAW Board.

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