More veterans eligible to sue for Agent Orange illness

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(Host) A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling is good news for Vermont’s Vietnam veterans. The ruling allows veterans who became ill since 1994 as a result of Agent Orange exposure to sue the companies that manufactured the chemical.

Agent Orange was used to defoliate the jungle in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. The chemical has been linked to cancers and other illnesses. An earlier settlement with chemical companies covered only veterans who became ill before 1994.

John Miner is a Vermont veteran and New England Director of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Miner says he doesn’t know yet how many veterans in Vermont will now be able to join a lawsuit against the chemical companies:

(Miner) “It’s a high number. I can just tell you it’s a high number. Vietnam vets are dying at an average age of 53 to 55. It’s terrible, the numbers.”

(Host) Miner says he’s among those who benefit from the court ruling. He was recently diagnosed with health problems related to Agent Orange exposure. He says the government has been slow to recognize the health effects from the chemical — and to extend benefits to Vietnam veterans.

(Miner) “And we haven’t even gotten into the children yet. Many, many veterans have children that have problems. This is why the Gulf War Veterans are so far ahead, because the Vietnam vets have stepped up to the plate and said, ‘this is what you’ve got to do.’ Within ten years they’re getting benefits and their children are getting benefits and thirty five years later, we’re still fighting for benefits.”

(Host) Miner says he’ll soon be contacting Vermont Vietnam veterans about joining the lawsuit against the manufacturers of Agent Orange.

During the war, roughly 7,500 hundred Vermonters did tours of duty in Vietnam.

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