By Marsha M. Brown
As a Veteran, you may have attended a VA Rural Health Care Initiative outreach event hosted somewhere in Dare County. Good for you! And if you were there, you likely received an armful of information including a book as thick as the old Sears catalog full of medical terminology and conditions.
In addition to booklets and pamphlets, you probably also received a set of papers stapled together (probably printed on orange paper) entitled ENVIORNMENTAL EXPOSURE AGENT ORANGE (AO). When we attended the first outreach clinic, Billy found the “orange” papers to be extremely important for several reasons.
Those papers describe Agent Orange or “AO” to a “specific blend of defoliant used in Vietnam and in and near the Korean DMZ”. It explains that “AO was sprayed in all 4 military zones of Vietnam”.
GIG LINE has addressed ‘AO’ in past articles but over time it’s become apparent to me that a lot of sailors do not realize they might also be subject to potential benefits as a result of exposure to ‘AO’. In other words, the orange ‘AO’ paperwork addresses Veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War sometimes called “Blue Water Veterans”. Blue Water Veterans must have actually stepped foot on the land of Vietnam or served on its inland waterways anytime between January 9. 1962 and May 7, 1975. The presumption in either case is that they may have been exposed to herbicides.
The information further describes that “Some offshore vessels docked to the shore of Vietnam, operated in Vietnam’s close coastal waters and sent smaller vessels ashore, or conducted operations on the inland waterways of Vietnam. For those Veterans who served aboard ships that docked and the Veteran went ashore or served abroad ships that did not dock but the Veteran went ashore, their service involved “visitation” in Vietnam”.
Further the paperwork addresses Veterans who served during active military, naval or air service in a unit in or near the Korean DMZ anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971” as well as “Veterans whose service involved duty on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975” who may have been exposed.
That being said, we can only recommend to all Veterans of those eras to get in touch with the Veterans’ Administration to be evaluated for exposure if they should have any questions.
The “orange” paperwork Billy received describes the following conditions associated to exposure to the chemical: Acute and Sub-acute Peripheral Neuropathy, Spina Bifida, AL Amyloidosis, Chloracne (or similar Acneform disease), Chronic B-cell Leukemias, Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, Hodgkin’s Disease, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Porphyria Cutanea Tarda, Prostate Cancer, Respiratory Cancers, Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Ischemic Heart Disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Veterans who have been exposed to “AO” or Agent Orange may be entitled to health care benefits, free prescriptions or even compensation, so the subject is positively worth looking into.
Billy and I began our quest to learn more about issues relating to his service in Vietnam a year ago. Much of what we have learned we have shared in turn with other Dare County Veterans and because of that, we came to realize that many who served on a ship in the Navy or Coast Guard do not think they were affected by Agent Orange…hopefully, they weren’t! But if they were, it should be brought to the attention of the Veterans Administration and probably to their primary physician as well.
Of the conditions and/or diseases they noted on the ‘orange’ paperwork, some are very common – like Prostate Cancer that many patients who served our country have never considered to be related to ‘AO’. Besides that many Veterans have never discussed their service in Vietnam with their primary care physician because their health issues didn’t seem relevant…but what if they are? What if your doctor in all his/her good and diligent work to keep you healthy or address your ailments doesn’t know you were exposed? Just in case it is relevant, please make them aware that you served in Vietnam.
Yesterday, Jeff Pearson, Hampton Rural Health Care Initiative (Hampton VA Medical Center) called Billy to say he was making arrangements for more outreach clinics to be held in Dare County. As the schedule of those dates become available to us, we’ll announce them in GIG LINE as well as the additional postings in The Coastland Times.
Please write to me at [email protected] . Your emails and comments are very much appreciated. Until next time be safe, be happy, be proud and stay tuned…