Disability Law

Decades after Vietnam War, how to deal with Agent Orange use there is still on US lawmakers' agenda


Residents of Vietnam, like American soldiers, apparently have been adversely affected by some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange used there by the U.S. Air Force as a defoliant before the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

But while the U.S. has spent billions in medical costs and disability benefits concerning health problems of service members attributed to the herbicide, scientific studies tying Agent Orange to health problems and multigenerational birth defects in Vietnam is minimal, experts say. An effort to emulate a federal lawsuit against manufacturers that led to a $197 million settlement with sick U.S. veterans in 1984 resulted in a 2004 dismissal because the companies were immunized because they were following government orders, a lengthy McClatchy article recounts. The U.S. Supreme Court declined in 2009 to hear an appeal.

Nonetheless, efforts to require the U.S. government to help affected individuals deal with Agent Orange-related health problems seem to be gaining traction in Congress. Lawmakers in 2011 told the U.S. Agency for International Development to create a plan to help Vietnam with its Agent Orange programs (a plan hasn’t yet been made public). And last month, a bill (PDF) was introduced in the House of Representatives that would require the U.S. to clean up remaining remaining hot spots around American military sites in Vietnam.

“During the war, we were hostile, but after the war ended, we normalized our relations and are now building a strategic partnership between Vietnam and the United States,” said Thai Thanh Hung. A retired colonel in the Vietnam military, he chairs the Da Nang Veterans Association, which has over 16,000 members.

“We no longer have hatred towards the Americans and the U.S. government, but we want this one lingering and remaining issue to be addressed, which is that the United States help solve the Agent Orange and dioxin problem,” he told a reporter for the newspaper group. “That’s why we’re keeping an eye on this issue, to see if the United States is really interested in healing the wounds or not.”

See also:

Dow Chemical Company: “Agent Orange”

New York Times (reg. req.): “4 Decades on, U.S. Starts Cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam”

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