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Syracuse Vietnam Vet Inspires Agent Orange Compensation Bill

Jun 10, 2014

New York U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei has introduced a bill named for Vietnam vet Larry Hackett that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a task force on Agent Orange.

The task force would recommend how to care for and compensate Vietnam vets and their children or grandchildren who develop Agent Orange-related illnesses and birth defects, reports.

Among the diseases VA has determined are associated with Agent Orange exposure are amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung diseases (including cancer), early-onset peripheral neuropathy, and soft-tissue sarcomas. Spina bifida, a birth defect in which the fetus’s spinal column does not completely close, is also associated with Agent Orange exposure in a parent, the VA says. Larry Hackett died eight years ago of soft-tissue sarcoma, a disease that developed many years after his Agent Orange exposure.

Alice Hackett, Larry’s widow, along with a group of Vietnam veterans and friends, spent years prodding the U.S. government to acknowledge the full extent of the harm Agent Orange exposure caused veterans, their families, and their descendants — and she has pushed for compensation for their illnesses.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. military sprayed about 18 million gallons of Agent Orange over 3.6 million acres in Vietnam, according to a study for the National Academy of Sciences. Vietnam says the toxic herbicide is responsible for at least 3 million birth defects in children born to those exposed to Agent Orange during the war, according to

Maffei’s bill, according to, would require the VA to establish a task force that would make recommendations about:

  • a national outreach program to survey Vietnam veterans about Agent Orange exposure and their health. No comprehensive studies have determined how many vets were exposed to Agent Orange, or how many of their children have suffered health problems related to the exposure.
  • compensation and health care for children or other descendants of exposed veterans who develop spina bifida, birth defects, or other illnesses related to Agent Orange.
  • a financial compensation program for exposed veterans or their survivors for the injury, illness or death related to Agent Orange.

The task force would make recommendations to Congress within a year of its establishment.

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