Among the wounds of war are those brought home by the troops of the Vietnam War is one that has received scant attention over the years – genetic injuries to their progeny. And now, it seems, genetic injuries are being passed on to their grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized for some time the problem of genetic disorders passed on to the children of Vietnam War veterans (and some who served in Korea), particularly among women veterans through statistical correlations, but nothing has been recognized regarding subsequent generations.
More recently in a campaign to support the passage of S.2738, The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014, the Vietnam Veterans of America organization has claimed, “Toxins, such as Agent Orange, have been shown to cause birth defects in the children of military personnel who came into contact with them, either during the Vietnam War, in the storage and transportation of those toxins, or by riding in aircraft that had been previously used to transport the toxins. For Gulf War veterans, the exposure was to chemical weapons that were in an Iraqi ammo dump that was blown up by U.S. Forces at the end of the Gulf War, to oil fires, and possibly to tainted vaccines.” The full extent of the truth is unfortunately unknown, however, and there is too much conjecture.
This is what makes Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (CT) reintroduction of the issue as S. 2738, which has resided in the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee since 31 July, so important. It directs the Department of Veterans affairs to establish a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during service in the Armed Forces, among its purposes. Significantly, it establishes an Advisory Board to the Secretary of the VA “… which shall study and evaluate claims of exposure to toxic substances by current and former members of the Armed Forces that is related to the service of the member in the Armed Forces …” – calling for additional research if necessary. In other words, the bill would push the envelope to resolve this longstanding and somewhat hidden problem.
The introduction of the bill is to the credit of the Vietnam Veterans of America and COVVHA, an alliance of affected children of Vietnam War veterans, among others. However, it is only a first step on a long journey. If you believe the subject needs resolution, not burying, contact your representatives. The Capwiz link is a convenient way to do so.
 Unk. “Take Action NOW Ask Your Senator to Support S. 2738, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014.” VVA Web Weekly, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014. <http://www.vva.org/WebWeekly/html/20140827.html#TOP>.
As of 1 September 2014