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Opinion

Opinion: The government’s disgraceful attempt to stiff a sick Vietnam vet

A photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows four “Ranch Hand” C-123 aircraft spraying liquid defoli
Four U.S. Air Force aircraft spray the Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam in 1965. Exposure to the herbicide has been linked to certain cancers and birth defects.
(U.S. Air Force)

To the editor: For decades, while praising the valor and sacrifice of veterans, our politicians have skimped on benefits and erected barriers to healthcare for the very same veterans. World War II and Korean War veterans received decent post-service benefits, but those who fought in later wars got the wrong end of the stick. (“He served as a Marine in Vietnam and later dedicated his life to helping struggling vets and others. Now he’s fighting for his life,” Nov. 11)

Is it really too much to ask that medical coverage and other benefits for veterans and their immediate families be free for life? I think most Americans would be willing to make the small individual sacrifice necessary to cover veterans’ medical and educational costs and ensure their availability as partial repayment for their service.

I am not a veteran, nor do I have any surviving veterans in my family, so I would not personally benefit if we do this. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Chuck Almdale, North Hills

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To the editor: Steve Lopez’s article on Marine Ken Williams’s fight against cancer and federal bureaucracy referenced a Veterans Affairs official who said the renewed attention to Agent Orange was the result of media “hype” and “hysteria.” I ask that official to spend a day with families with disabled children who are suffering the tragic consequences of exposure to this herbicide.

Our trust in the VA presumes honesty and truth. How has the VA lost those critically important traits?

More importantly, it is bad enough that Williams has to bear the cross of his exposure; it is far worse to think that we are the cause of our children and grandchildren’s hurt and pain. We may have left Vietnam, but Vietnam has not left us.

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Frank Barry, Huntington Beach

The writer chairs the Vietnam Veterans of America’s economic opportunities committee.

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