This campaign will have three specific areas to target. The first target area is the health of the veterans. The word we are desperately trying to get out is for veterans of the Vietnam War to get yearly medical checkups which include CAT scans, because of its capability to spot new cancerous areas within the body. Veterans should also have annual PSA tests.
This intense medical scrutiny is not only because the typical Vietnam veteran is now in an age range of 58 to 65 when these types of problems should be looked into anyway. What is more important to a Vietnam veteran is the fact that, in many cases, those who were exposed to dioxin through Agent Orange contamination may at this time of their lives begin showing symptoms of that dioxin poisoning if those symptoms have not yet occurred. This simple routine of yearly examinations can save thousands of lives, and can extend the lifetime of Vietnam veterans by as much as ten years or more. Our studies have shown that an average life span of a Vietnam veteran is 64 or 65 years, while the national average of male, non-veterans is 76 years.
Research has found that dioxin absorbed by the body can lay dormant for 30 or 40 years and then become active. The Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), in conjunction with Institute of Medicine (IOM), has now identified well over 40 unique cancers accepted in the "presumption of exposure" category. This means that Vietnam veterans (with a few exceptions) who display any of these cancers and related illnesses are automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin) and are automatically rated as service connected for health conditions, which makes them eligible for priority health care within the VA Medical system.
We are also concerned that there are still many veterans who are not aware of numerous benefits they are eligible for. This is target area two. The most important of these is the health care provided at VA facilities. However, many other benefits should be looked into, including life insurance, pensions, burial and Memorial benefits, and, in some cases, benefits available to their dependents and survivors upon their death.
The third area involves the family and specifically the spouse of the contaminated veteran. There hasn't been much fanfare given to these individuals, but they have often been the most loyal and dedicated friend Vietnam veterans ever have. They have stuck by their veteran through the various phases of health decline, and have generally been the one to 'take action,' whether in gathering information or providing simple tasks like transportation. There has not been enough recognition given to these individuals, and we want to make a special effort in briefly turning the spot light on them. These are often the true 'unsung heroes' that deserve our acknowledgment and thanks.
Anyone who currently has a disease or disability caused by Agent Orange (dioxin) is urged to do three things:
The Order of the Silver Rose (http://www.silverrose.org) was established in 1996 to acknowledge and honor the courage, heroism, and contributions of American service personnel found to have been exposed to Agent Orange during the time of the Vietnam War and whose lethal exposure to Agent Orange has resulted in internal, invisible wounds, which are revealed only by the passage of time. Nearly 4,000 Silver Rose awards have been made to veterans both living and dead.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association (BWNVVA - http://www.bluewaternavy.org ) is a veteran advocate organization, available to help veterans of all branches of Service. Because of recent DVA rule changes and subsequent court proceedings, BWNVVA is currently focused on re-instating presumptive exposure benefits of health care and compensation for personnel who served offshore Vietnam. These individuals were originally included in the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4). Additionally, in many other areas such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, veterans were exposed to and contaminated by Agent Orange at their military bases or on combat and support activities for the Vietnam War.