Civil Discourse Now

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Veterans' exposure to Agent Orange & burn pits: benefits should be a given

Pentagon budget people are not known for saving money. To say someone spends money “like a drunken sailor” has an inherently martial ring. Members of Congress even throw more money at our national defense than the Department of Defense (“DoD”) has requested.

We should not be surprised that DoD can tighten its belt, albeit in perverse ways. Basic things about warfare (even when “war” is not declared) are toxins. Things blown up and people killed means harmful chemicals. Agent Orange did not originate as the name of a band.

In Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), U.S. military personnel fought in jungles. Those jungles provided cover for people our people fought. DoD had a simple solution: spray weed killer - lots and lots of really toxic weed killer. That was Agent Orange.

What the USA did in Vietnam, to people who lived there, was abhorrent. But we did it to all, us included. We dropped Agent Orange on U.S. military personnel. And only recently, 47 years after the U.S. left Vietnam, are barriers to veterans’ benefits for Agent Orange being eased.

Today legislation has been presented in Congress to ease veterans’ access to benefits for being exposed to burn pits. Burn pits are where really toxic chemicals are/were burned in Afghanistan and Iraq and 72% of veterans who apply for benefits are denied.

The Feres doctrine is a general bar to a veteran filing suit for injuries sustained while in service. This is Memorial Day. We should not send people overseas in military actions in which war is not declared. That would mean a LOT fewer people, on any and all sides, killed or maimed.

Military leaders know there are toxins out there. People in service do not have a choice and cannot refuse to be around those burn pits. Benefits for injuries should be a given. For that matter to avoid violence should be the real given. We shouldn’t bomb and invade places.

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