AP photo by Horst Faas
Herbicide mixing machine, C-123 aircraft, 1963.
The primary way that aid has been administered to the Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange has been health and financial support provided by the Veterans Administration. Medical treatment has been provided since Congress passed Public Law 97-72 in 1981.
“If I am only for myself, who am I?
And if not now, when?”
– The Prophet Hillel, ca. 10 BC
Financial compensation has been provided since Congress passed Public Law 98-542 in 1984. The VA also conducted studies of Agent Orange impacts, at first essentially dictated by the chemical industry but subsequently more objectively, as directed by Congress. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 transferred the responsibility for reviewing medical research from the VA to the National Academy of Science, which since then has made recommendations to the VA as to illnesses and disabilities eligible for VA treatment and compensation—a list growing ever longer.
Meanwhile, the US and Vietnam have been struggling with the impact of Agent Orange on Vietnam more and more, as the science has improved; issues that previously preoccupied the two parties have been resolved; and Vietnam’s value as a US strategic asset has grown. The recent focus of American aid has been to support the remediation of dioxin hot spots, but if and when these areas are rendered harmless, the much larger issue of compensation for human victims might come to the fore.