MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG uncovered how decades after the Vietnam war, veterans exposed to Agent Orange are still fighting for disability pension payments.
On Thursday WREG told you about one vet who appealed for help from his dying bed.
During the course of our investigation we learned about another group of Agent Orange victims looking for help, the children and grandchildren of these vets.
Agent Orange didn’t just manifest in the bloodstream of veterans.
It got passed in their DNA but they need help proving the damage.
“She was born without a uterus and they’re saying some of the children were from Agent Orange,” said Mary Smith the spouse of Vietnam Veteran.
Smith was among the crowd of parents and grandparents wanting to know if their children and grandchildren inherited the legacy of Agent Orange.
“They just said congenial lack of uterus which means birth, born without a uterus, and I never ever associated it with any military,” said Smith.
She didn’t associate her daughter`s birth defect with her husband’s time in Vietnam until recently.
Smith`s husband, along with a lot of the others were exposed to the dangerous herbicide, used to spray the jungles of Vietnam.
“We drank the water out of the bomb craters and streams that had been polluted with it,” said Leslie Billings a Vietnam Veteran.
The military later admitted Agent Orange caused cancer and other health problems for vets.
In 1996 they even admitted it could be passed down to the children of vets and awarded them benefits for life.
However, it only recognized a few illnesses like Spina Bifida.
Vets told WREG the effects are much broader.
“They are projecting that the diseases can go to our 5th generation of grandchildren,” said Barry Rice the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Tennessee council.
He lead a recent town hall meeting in Munford.
He’s held 10 of these Agent Orange meetings in a year to encourage vets to get Congress involved.
Rice wanted veterans to put pressure on Congress to pass a military toxic exposure bill so scientists can study the generational effects of Agent Orange.
Doctors diagnosed and linked Rice’s Non-Hodgkin`s lymphoma directly to Agent Orange.
He believed he exposed his daughter.
“My daughter, although she has not come down with any kind of cancer, she’s had severe, severe thyroid problems.” he told WREG. “Thyroid problems among children of Vietnam Veterans is prevalent.”
Vets said their children are getting sick from the poison.
Someone had to come to their defense to find out if the military was responsible some 40 years and several generations later.
“Listen to us. There are children dying now. It’s no different than sending a 3-year-old child out into the jungle, men walking around with an AK 47. Same difference,” said Rice.
This legislation was backed by Vietnam Veterans organizations, but they want younger vets involved as well.
They said Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were exposed to a range of environmental and chemical hazards during their wars.
There were questions about how service in those countries might affect Iraq and Afghanistan vets and their children years from now.
WREG was told currently there is a big backlog of disability cases at the Veterans Administration.
Veterans told us they’re sometimes waiting up to two years for a decision.
Adding more children and allowing grandchildren to apply for benefits, will likely mean an even longer wait.