WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thirty years after the Vietnam War, Agent Orange largely affects Vietnam today. Agent Orange is a herbicide containing a toxic contaminant know as dioxin. The strain of dioxin found in Agent Orange that was sprayed during the Vietnam War was the most potent strain. Between the years of 1961 and 1975, a variety of 19 million herbicides were sprayed across the southern region of Vietnam.
The United States military spraying missions of Agent Orange covered 10 percent of Vietnam’s land which caused the exposure of Agent Orange to between 2 and 4 million Vietnamese citizens. Beginning in 1991, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs associated several diseases and illnesses related to the exposure to Agent Orange including the following types of cancer: Chronic B-cell Leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissues sarcomas can be associated with the exposure. Other illnesses include ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, AL Amyloidosis and chloracne.
The purpose of the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2019 — introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) — is to provide assistance and support to those individuals whose health has been impacted as a result of Agent Orange. Here are five facts about the newly proposed bill assisting Agent Orange Victims.
5 Facts About The Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2019
- Covered individuals must be residents of Vietnam, and according to the bill text includes anyone who is “affected by health issues related to exposure to Agent Orange which took place during the period beginning on January 1, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, or who lives or has lived in or near those geographic areas in Vietnam that continue to contain high levels of Agent Orange.” Covered individuals will be able to receive reconstructive surgical operations, medical and physical rehabilitation as well as counseling services. Regarding caregivers to Agent Orange victims, the aim is to provide access to training programs, home care, daycare programs and respite care.
- Concerning housing and poverty reduction in Vietnam, the bill proposes to rebuild or repair substandard homes for Agent Orange victims. In addition, the bill seeks to offer micro-grants and loans to stimulate poverty reduction in affected areas of Vietnam.
- The environment was also greatly affected by Agent Orange. The herbicides used were meant to defoliate trees, but the chemicals produced had other effects. The bill proposes the remediation of areas that have high levels of Agent Orange even though 30 years have passed. However, the priority of remediations will be to those areas that were heavily sprayed during the tactical missions. These areas also include military bases due to the large volume of Agent Orange that was handled and sprayed.
- Assistance to administrative authorities would also be provided with the bill. It will assist the Vietnamese community as a whole as well as non-government organizations. The goal is to reach every community whether it is rural or urban. Rep. Lee also wants to encourage the alliances between the public and private sector of business to stimulate the economy for poverty reduction.
- The bill also mandates that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall “identify and provide assistance to support research relating to health issues of individuals affected by Agent Orange. Such research should include recommended focus provided by the United States Institute of Medicine as identified in their biennial Veterans and Agent Orange Update, and supported by the active involvement of schools of public health and medicine located in the United States, Vietnam and other interested countries.”
– Logan Derbes