Agent Orange meeting draws large crowd - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Agent Orange meeting draws large crowd

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Agent Orange, a powerful and toxic chemical, was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

Over 20 million gallons were sprayed on some six million acres of Vietnamese terrain.

Returning U.S. servicemen and their families, as well as the Vietnamese, are still dealing with the health effects.

And those health effects are wide-ranging.

On Saturday, a town hall meeting was held at the American Legion Post One in Lake Charles for those exposed to Agent Orange.

Over 300 people attended the meeting, along with a group of expert panelists.

Officials said the objective was to bring together everyone affected.

"People are sharing stories and asking questions. And the people sitting on the panel are giving direct answers today," said Post One Commander, Ronnie Odom.

Many veterans, like Marty Bee, say they were affected by Agent Orange.

"I was exposed when I was in Vietnam as a hospital corps man. I was stationed with the Marines in the bush. I was probably exposed to it through all the water I drank and bathed in," explained Marty.

Marty said he later developed Parkinson's and attributes it to the toxic chemical, "My wife said, you know, it could be related to Agent Orange and I looked into it and Parkinson's had just been put on the list. So, I applied for disability."

But he, like many other veterans, said they're frustrated with the length of time it takes to process their claims through the VA office.

The VA responded.

"Our job here is to provide them an avenue here to speed up that claim process," said Chuck Davidson, of the SWLA Regional Office of Veterans Affairs.

But the meeting was also for family members.

"It can go down five to seven generations, so grandchildren can be having children that have maybe something that is connected to the Agent Orange disease from the very beginning," said Sandra Lopez, Chapter 215 historian.

That's why they're encouraging those affected, directly or indirectly, to get signed up on the registry.

"Because the only thing the government's going to respond to is numbers," said Marty.

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.

Guide to Agent Orange: http://www.vva.org/Guides/AgentOrangeGuide.pdf

Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/

Additional information: http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/313

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