On March 29, 1973, the last US combat troops left Vietnam, ending 8 years of direct intervention in the war and decades of American involvement in the conflict. All told, the conflict cost more than 58,000 American lives, and tens of thousands more returned home scarred, wounded, and weary after fighting bloody battles in a country most had never heard of before the war.
Unlike their parent’s generation, who returned home to much fanfare and celebration in 1945, veterans of the Vietnam War returned home to an ungrateful nation, met with protests and insults. In the decades since, the vitriol and hatred of those that served our country honorably and with distinction has faded, but many challenges remain.
Veterans of the War in Vietnam have faced incomprehensible difficulties in getting the benefits they deserve through the Department of Veterans Affairs—particularly for health problems caused by exposure to Agent Orange. It took nearly 20 years for Congress to mandate that the VA presume that certain diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure were service-connected and it was just 2 years ago that Congress expanded that to include veterans who served in the Blue Water Navy off the coast of Vietnam.
These bills were important steps toward getting our Vietnam War veterans the benefits they earned, and they deserve, but that battle is not yet over for many of our veterans. Many still struggle to get the benefits they were promised, particularly from the VA. I want to take this time to make one thing abundantly clear—if you’re a veteran having difficultly getting the benefits you earned, my office is here to help. It doesn’t matter when or where you served or what federal agency you’re having trouble with, we’ll do everything we can to get you what you need and deserve.
Forty-eight years on, it’s long past time we made things right for the men and women who served in Vietnam. We should remember their courage in service to our nation. We should thank them for their sacrifices. And, perhaps most importantly, we should live up to the promises our country made to them.