I spend a lot of time looking at all sides of the Agent Orange epidemic. I not only think about the many issues surrounding Agent Orange, but I also look at the many barriers that discourage forward movement for the offspring of male Vietnam Veterans. Many of you reading this may be surprised to know that Veteran Affairs recognizes a laundry list of birth defects in the children whose mothers are Vietnam Veterans but does not recognize the same birth defects (except for spina bifida) in the children of Male Vietnam Veterans.
From the Veterans Affairs website:(For Children of women Vietnam Veterans)
Covered birth defects include, but are not limited to, the following conditions:
This is truly an outrage. The number of American women who served in Vietnam (mostly nurses) range somewhere between 6,500 and 8,000 compared to a little over 2,500,000 men who served within the borders of South Vietnam. I am proud of our women Vietnam Veterans. I am thrilled their children receive services but there should be equality. Veterans Affairs, currently offers a monthly stipend, educational benefits, and health care, to the above mentioned groups. Meanwhile, the widows of male Vietnam Vets (whose death has been service connected due to his exposure to Agent Orange) struggle to take care of adult Children who are permanently disabled by the birth defects on this list. Their childrens birth defects have no known family history or cause except for the exposure of their father to the herbicide Agent Orange.
Veteran’s Affairs is quick to point out on their website:
"The VA recognizes a wide range of birth defects as associated with women Veterans' service in Vietnam. These diseases are not tied to herbicides, including Agent Orange, or dioxin exposure, but rather to the birth mother's service in Vietnam. "
I am confused.
What are they claiming caused the birth defects in children of Women Vietnam Veterans? Oh Yeah, they aren’t really saying….
I have become friends through my website with a woman from California, she is around my age, her father suffers from diseases which are documented to be caused by his Agent Orange exposure. She was born with severe hip dysplasia. Please read a section of her first email to me:
“I too am an Agent Orange Second Generation Victim. For years I have felt very isolated and unsure of what to do. I am a wife and mother of 3 healthy children. I am 37 yrs old and was born with Severe Hip Dysplasia. From the time I was 13 months old, I had reconstruction surgery every few years until I was 17 years old and at that time had my 1st Total Hip Replacement. I am now getting ready for my 5th Total Hip Replacement and 4th Pelvic Reconstruction since 17. I am also battling several rare forms of skin cancer that are life threatening. These cancers are seen in older generations that have had "extreme carcinogenic and pesticide exposure". I have had no direct exposure to these. I have gone through 2 rounds of chemotherapy in the last 4 years only to have the cancer come back stronger. I am in surgery for tumor removal at least once a month. The hundreds of scars on my body are horrific. My Doctors cannot put me through anymore chemotherapy as I have been told my body will not make it. There is a drug that is currently in trials that at the very least would buy me some time. The drug companies manufacturing this have denied me access to the trial as I am "too sick" and would "mess up their numbers". I have gone several rounds with the V.A. only to be denied time and again because I don't have Spina Bifida and because my Father served in Vietnam and not my Mother. My Father served in Vietnam during the heaviest spray periods. I have had numerous tests done and every Medical Professional has said without a doubt ALL of my medical issues today and at birth are a DIRECT result of my Father's exposure to Agent Orange. He also has numerous medical conditions ALL of which have been linked to the Agent Orange exposure.”
In my opinion, the children of Male Vietnam Veterans have officially been added to the “Deny until we die list.”
There was no family history of my birth defects or my friend’s birth defects. I was born two months premature, without my right leg and several of my fingers. I am missing my big toe on my left foot. The rest of my toes were webbed and had to be surgically altered. My Father DIED due to his Agent Orange exposure. The VA admitted my father’s death was Agent Orange related, yet my birth defects are denied.
The children of male Vietnam Veterans will never be recognized until we take the cause up for ourselves. Our Fathers and fellow Vets have to focus on trying to save each other from the grave. Our mothers have to go on, sometimes taking care of our disabled siblings. Even though we have been grieving our disabilities, the illness or death of our father, and the collapse of life as we knew it, we must fight for equal rights for the Children of Male vets.
Time continues to go by, government studies of the offspring of Male Vietnam Veterans goes undone. The research of early diseases that the adult children of male Veterans are now starting to suffer from goes uncollected. I am two years shy of forty. When are they going to take this issue seriously? In ten years when I’m fifty? Hell, my Dad died when he was fifty. I guess the VA is sticking to what has worked for them in the past. “Deny until they die”
Who knows what the lifespan of the male offspring will be…our lives, our health, our future is unknown. How do I explain that to my two little boys?
May God Bess all of you who are suffering. Please leave a comment and tell others of your story.