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Agent Orange’s oft-overlooked American victims

We’ve mentioned reports on the health effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam and upon returning American soldiers. But there is another key group of victims, as K. Oanh Ha reports in The California Report. Vietnamese who fought alongside Americans during the war, then emigrated to the United States, were exposed to the same toxins as the Americans and North Vietnamese, yet have no available benefit system.

Vets who have one of 15 diseases can qualify for disability compensation and medical care from the Veterans Administration. That’s not the case for South Vietnamese soldiers, said Ed Martini, a history professor at Western Michigan University, who’s writing a book about the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

“If you’re a South Vietnamese soldier, you’re a man without a country,” Martini said. “There’s no benefits system available to you. You can’t get the Vietnamese benefits, and you can’t get the American benefits.”

Ha ends his piece with a small ray of hope for these forgotten allies. At least one politician is taking notice.

Now, the plight of former South Vietnamese soldiers is attracting attention in Congress. Congressman Mike Honda, whose district includes San Jose, says he’s willing to meet with former South Vietnamese soldiers and their families to consider legislation that would extend them benefits.

“Nothing’s too good for our veterans,” Honda said. “That same attitude should be provided to the all the veterans we’ve created and those who have fought with us.”