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Monday, March 13 2017

Agent Orange Town Hall to Explain Veteran Benefits

Adapted from an Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans' Services District press release:

Vietnam veterans and their families are invited to attend a town hall on Saturday, April 22nd, from Noon to 4PM, in the dinning commons at Greenfield Community College (GCC), to receive information on impacts of the chemical Agent Orange and benefits and services available for veterans who were exposed to it.  Agent Orange was widely used during the Vietnam War, to clear vast stretches of jungle, and scientists have since linked the chemical to cancer and other health problems.

At this event, veterans will be able to make appointments with various organizations, in order to review their eligibility to file claims with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and listen to speakers explain the history of Agent Orange, its related diseases, and the benefits and VA claims process for service-connected disability.  In addition, an expert from the national office of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) will share the latest information on advocacy programs supporting Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange related benefits and services.  Light refreshments will also be served.

“There are many veterans in our region, including many of their spouses and family members, who don’t know about the benefits they’re eligible for in regards to illnesses and diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides during military service in Vietnam,” said Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services Director Tim Niejadlik.  Director Niejadlik's organization provides assistance to veterans in 26 towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties and he is particularly focused on getting family members to attend the town hall, specifically spouses, because benefits can be significant for a spouse if a veteran passes away.

The town hall will address many questions that Vietnam veterans and their families typically ask Niejadlik, including ones about illnesses and ailments for which veterans and their families could qualify to apply for benefits. There are more than 40 illnesses and diseases recognized by the VA as connected to Agent Orange herbicide exposure, including bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson's-like symptoms.  Also, according to VVA, children and grandchildren of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are also at risk for certain diseases and birth defects.  Niejadlik encourages veterans and their families to get in touch with a veteran service officer at least once a year, to keep up with changing eligibility requirements.

Although the number of veterans exposed to Agent Orange is undetermined, there are more than 122,000 Vietnam veterans in Massachusetts, including more than 2,000 in Franklin County and 4,000 in Hampshire County, according to the VA. Because of this, VA representatives will be at the town hall not only to provide information on VA health care treatment for Agent Orange related diseases but also on Hepatitis-C.  Additionally, the UMass Veterans Nursing Program and MEDCARE Ambulance staff will be offering free health care screenings from Noon to 1PM.

This Agent Orange Town Hall is being made possible by the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans' Services District, with support from Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans, Vietnam Veterans’ of Massachusetts Inc., Greenfield Community College, and VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System.  For more information, please call contact Tim Niejadlik at (413) 772-1571 or Greenfield Community College Veterans Affairs Counselor Christopher Demars at (413) 775-1825.

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