KHQ: Veteran Impacted by Agent Orange Reacts to New Bill

by Zach Kaplan

Right now, hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans are waiting on a signature to determine whether they receive benefits related to Agent Orange exposure during the war.

Nearly 60,000 Americans never made it home from Vietnam, and now 45 years later, those that did may finally see the help they deserve.

Rodney Williams lives in Deer Lodge, and after being drafted in the summer of 1966, six months later he was on his way to Vietnam. He served on the front lines and was one of the thousands exposed to Agent Orange. He is one of the lucky ones that came home, but today he still suffers from the after effects.

“My family has always been soldiers.” Williams said. “And Vietnam veterans were the worst treated out of all of them.” “My hyperthyroidism got so bad, I was having trouble with my heart and uh, things like that. And I, I had to have them operate on it. And they found cancer in there, so they took my whole thyroid out.”

“Now the fact is that tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans like Rodney are experiencing diseases and debilitating health conditions like bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism as a result of their military service and exposure,” Sen. Jon Tester (D) said.

Agent Orange is a blend of herbicides that the US military sprayed during the war. The object of it was to remove leaves from trees that provided enemy cover. To date, 14 different health conditions have been attributed to Agent Orange. Getting treatment for it has been next to impossible.

“To make an appointment, they would say well four months down the road,” Williams said. “I said what, what if I’m dying or something? Well, four months.”

The VA knows how detrimental these diseases have been, and for years, they have said they cannot help because conditions like Rodney’s do not fall under the Agent Orange category when it comes to healthcare. Matthew Doyle works with the VFW and expresses the same frustration.

“Vietnam veterans did their part, and served with honor,” Doyle said. “Sadly, many of them have lost the fight to the health conditions associated with Agent Orange.”

Therefore, to make this happen and get the vets the care they deserve, all President Trump has to do is sign the bill. Right now, there is a question of whether or not he will as he has other issues with what is inside the bill.

He has until Dec. 23 to either sign it or veto it but Sen. Tester says that regardless of what the president does, he’s confident they have enough votes to override a veto.