A Vietnam Veteran has inspired a bill that seeks to establish a task force on Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that the was used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam war to defoliate the tropical jungle. According to Syracuse.com, U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) introduced the “Lawrence J. Hackett Jr. Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Fairness Act” in April and is currently looking for Republican co-sponsors in the House.
Syracuse.com reports that Larry Hackett was exposed to Agent Orange on the battlefield when he marched off to war in Vietnam 46 years ago at the age of 19. His wife, Alice Hackett, told Syracuse.com that he died eight years ago from cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure. Mrs. Hackett, along with Vietnam veterans and friends, wants the US government to acknowledge the effect of Agent Orange exposure on soldiers, their families and their descendants and to compensate them for their medical issues.
But Hackett says that the compensation is not the most important aspect of the issue. “It’s the acknowledgment, that’s the main thing,” she said. “The issue is that these guys died because their own government poisoned them…How can you let these guys die off with no acknowledgment that they died because of their own government? Nobody knew back then that the cancer would take 30 years to develop.” She says that the VA had presumed her husband’s cancer, a type of soft-tissue sarcoma, to be linked to his exposure to Agent Orange.
The bill wants the VA to establish an Agent Orange task force that would make recommendations about several things, including setting up a national outreach program to determine how many veterans were affected by Agency Orange. There are no comprehensive studies showing how many vets were affected and how many of their children suffered birth defects because of their exposure. The bill would also want the VA to make recommendations about compensating children and other descendants of veterans exposed to Agent Orange who developed spina bifida, birth defects and other medical problems. The VA task force, which would last no longer than two years, would be asked to make recommendations about a financial compensation program; all of their recommendations would be made within a year of establishment.
The legislation is supported by Central New York veterans groups and some prominent local Vietnam veterans, including U.S. District Court Judge Norman Mordue. Larry Hacket’s closest friend, Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey, told Syracuse. com “I was always kind of angry about what happened to Larry Hackett…particularly because he was killed in my view by his own government.”
“I think anything we can do to get a commission to look at the issues of these guys who are dying and their families will help,” said Fahey. “I don’t think they have any idea of how many people have been afflicted or have died because of this.”