Possible relief on the way for Guam claimants of Agent Orange exposure
Agent Orange is a seemingly innocent name with a much deadlier meaning. The substance is a mixture of herbicides used by the United States military to defoliate forest areas and destroy crops and was sprayed from low-flying aircraft to get maximum effect. Defoliating is when herbicidal chemicals are sprayed on plants to make their leaves fall off and this tactic quickly reveals hiding enemies. Additionally, this herbicide killed crops and left many of the US’ enemies without food. Agent Orange was first employed as a part of the US’ herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War. Eventually, in the 1980s, the US Environmental Protection Agency halted its components due to health concerns, as Agent Orange caused large numbers of miscarriages, skin diseases, cancers, and more in Vietnam during the war. Now, there is debate about its use in Guam.
While official reports said that Agent Orange had not been used in Guam, veterans in 2017 came out and claimed that Agent Orange had been sprayed on Guam. While these claims were denied by the federal government, these claims are supported by the fact that many of these veterans suffer health problems that are normally sustained after exposure to Agent Orange. In fact, the US Department of Veteran Affairs noted 14 diseases in Guam that are associated with Agent Orange, such as bladder cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
However, in efforts to remedy this problem, a federal measure was recently passed in the US House of Representatives that recognizes the exposure of Agent Orange in Guam and has offered expanded exposure coverage to veterans affected by Agent Orange. This bill, HR 3967, named the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2021, expands eligibility for hospital and medical care for veterans that appear to be affected with herbicide exposure during the specified times and places elaborated upon in the bill. The next step for the Honoring Our PACT Act is the US Senate. If this bill passes through the US Senate, it will be a big step towards reparations towards veterans as Congress acknowledges the US’ use of Agent Orange and other harmful herbicides not just in Guam, but in several areas around the world.