A federal report says there’s no evidence that the U.S. military sprayed or stored Agent Orange on Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands during the Vietnam War.
But the herbicide was on ships that stopped on Guam, and there are no records indicating whether or not the dangerous chemical was unloaded.
The conclusion reached by the Government Accountability Office in a report issued last week was disappointing to Florida resident and veteran Brian Moyer.
Moyer, 63, is among a group of veterans who have been fighting for the Veterans Administration to add Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to the list of sites where veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.
Veterans rally to add Guam to the list of places where Agent Orange was used. This event took place in November 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Courtesy of Brian Moyer
Agent Orange is a herbicide that was widely used during the Vietnam War, but later banned due to its association with a slew of illnesses.
In order to be presumed eligible for health care benefits, the VA says that veterans must show that they were exposed to tactical herbicides like Agent Orange intended for military use. Thousands of veterans have requested coverage for Agent Orange exposure outside of Vietnam.
The analysis found that four ships containing Agent Orange appear to have stopped on Guam but there are no documents indicating that the chemical was offloaded onto the islands.
Agent Orange was considered a tactical herbicide and U.S. military guidelines say it was not used on installations. But the military did apply commercial herbicides with similar chemical components.
Among other findings, the GAO study criticized the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration for failing to update its existing list of sites where Agent Orange was stored and tested.
“Even though they have received reports dating back more than a decade that identified issues with the accuracy and completeness of the list, neither DOD nor VA has taken steps to validate or correct the list,” the report says, even though the list is on the VA’s website “as a primary source for veterans seeking information about Agent Orange.”
The DOD acknowledged there was no process for updating the list and no criteria to determine which locations and dates to include on the list, the report says.
Moyer says he learned about the potential exposure to Agent Orange in 2016 from Leroy Foster, a veteran who served on Guam. In a phone interview last year, Foster told Civil Beat he remembers spraying the herbicide on Anderson Air Force Base when he was stationed on Guam during the Vietnam War.
Foster’s advocacy led a Florida congressman to introduce legislation in Foster’s name to add Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa to the list of areas where veterans were presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
Foster died on Oct. 18 after battling cancer, but Moyer says he and other veterans plan to keep fighting.
“I truly believe we’re exposing what the government has done to us and not just us but Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota,” Moyer says.
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