An estimated 50,000 men and women who served on Guam during the Vietnam War are
asking Washington lawmakers to support giving them benefits after mounting evidence suggests they were exposed to Agent Orange.
“If we don’t get what we want from the VA, then we will sue,” retired Navy Cmdr. John Wells said.
Wells, the executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy, is an attorney leading the fight for national legislation to provide a financial lifeline for vets who, he said, were never told of the potential side effects of Agent Orange.
“We estimate 50,000 or more veterans could be effected by this legislation,” Wells said.
That estimate does not include the children and grandchildren of vets exposed to the chemicals.
Emma Ackerson, the 10-year-old granddaughter of retired Navy vet Lonnie Kilptarick, has been diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a rare brain defect.
“They’re born with birth defects and they’re going to suffer their entire lives,” her mother, Keri Ackerson, told News 6.
Ackerson has been diagnosed with the identical brain defect but so far her symptoms are not as extreme.
Her father served on Guam between 1971 and 1974. He received benefits for a heart transplant he needed because of exposure to Agent Orange and he died in May.
He is one of only 12 veterans stationed on Guam during the 1960s and 1970s who was given compensation.
The Department of Veterans Affairs granted Kilpatrick benefits this year.
Brian Moyer, a retired Navy Marine, is starting to show signs of ailments linked to exposure to Agent Orange.
“We’ve got men and women who can’t work anymore,” Moyer said.
Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy veteran, said he has been monitoring the issue and supports the call for benefits as long as the evidence is there.
“I’m always going to stand with our vets," Scott said. "If something went wrong, if it was used, let’s take care of our vets and their families.”
For more information on the vets initiative or to donate to the Military Veterans Advocacy, visit www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org.