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vietnam veterans

January 14, 2020 - 11:27am

On Monday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finally prioritize the health and well-being of Upstate New York veterans and finally end the years-long delay of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) effort to add additional diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

In Western New York, there are approximately more than 32,000 Vietnam-era veterans. Statewide, there are more than 240,000 of them.

2016 National Academies report found suggestive evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism were associated with veterans’ service, as well as clarified that veterans with “Parkinson-like symptoms” (Parkinsonism) should be considered eligible under the presumption that Parkinson's disease and the veterans' service are connected.

Following this report, former VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that he would add these conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list in the near future, which would allow Vietnam War-era veterans stricken by these illnesses to receive additional health care benefits, disability compensation, and care benefits to surviving spouses and dependent children and parents.

But that announcement never came after OMB blocked the move.

In addition to the failure to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism on the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list, the VA has also yet to act on a 2018 National Academies report that found sufficient evidence of association between exposure to herbicides and hypertension.

Even though Schumer secured a provision in the recently passed budget deal requiring the VA to issue a report to Congress in consultation with OMB on the delay in adding these conditions to the presumptive conditions list, he said this is not nearly enough. He urged the agencies to take the necessary steps to ensure that the over 240,000 New York veterans, who risked their lives to defend their country, receive the health care and benefits they need and deserve.

Just last week, Schumer called recently confirmed OIRA Administrator Paul Ray directly and implored him, as the chief overlooking all federal government regulations, to immediately prioritize our veterans’ healthcare, take a personal interest in expanding their health benefits and add these conditions to the Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions List.

“It’s unfathomable that the administration is refusing to do right by our nation’s veterans, including the more than 240,000 New York veterans that bravely served during the Vietnam era, and has unilaterally blocked the VA from expanding healthcare benefits to those exposed to Agent Orange,” Senator Schumer said.

The Right Thing to Do

“After years and years of kicking the can down the road, it is high time for the federal government to accept the substantial proof linking bladder cancer, hypertension, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to Agent Orange exposure, and add these conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

"It is absolutely incumbent on the administration to do everything within its power to clear a path for the VA, add these conditions to the list of Agent Orange illnesses, and finally allow veterans who are currently suffering access to the healthcare and benefits they rightly deserve; it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s the very least we owe the brave New Yorkers who served and defended our country.”

In March of last year, Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the recommended new presumptive conditions would be added within 90 days, which also never happened.

Furthermore, this past October, email communications between the VA and the White House revealed that the delays were at the behest of the OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and White House advisors, who were reportedly concerned about the potential cost of adding diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

Emails explaining the decision to hold off on adding the conditions to the presumptive conditions list can be found here.

Exposure to Herbicide 'Agent Orange' Inflicts 'Presumed Diseases'

Schumer explained that per the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA automatically accepts that if a Vietnam Veteran physically served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975, it is probable that the veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent like Agent Orange.

Furthermore, the Act established a list of “presumed” diseases that the VA stipulates are caused by Agent Orange exposure. Therefore, if a veteran served in Vietnam at any time between 1962-1975 and is diagnosed with one or more of the diseases VA recognizes as service connected, the VA will compensate the veteran and his or her family.

However, even though there is scientific evidence linking Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, hypertension and hypothyroidism to Agent Orange exposure, they are not currently on the VA’s list of recognized conditions.

Schumer said that is absolutely crucial that the roughly 240,000 Vietnam-era veterans in New York State receive the healthcare benefits they need and deserve.

“Adding these diseases to the Agent Orange Presumption List would only benefit the brave service members who were exposed to this chemical during the Vietnam War and are suffering from its harmful effects,” Veterans Outreach Center Executive Director and Army veteran Laura Stradley said. “Veterans Outreach Center stands with our veterans, and we support the laws that allow our brothers and sisters to access much-needed healthcare, services and support.”

May 3, 2018 - 2:34pm

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) will host a ceremony to honor any Vietnam era veteran from 4 to 5 p.m. on Friday May 11th at the Batavia City Centre.

Veterans who are interested in receiving a pin from The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration are encouraged to contact his office to confirm their eligibility and RSVP for the ceremony.

“This year we commemorated the first National Vietnam War Veterans Day to recognize the brave individuals who served in our nation’s military during the Vietnam War years,” Collins said. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to meet Vietnam veterans in my district and distribute these special pins.”

Any veteran who served in Vietnam is eligible for a pin and should contact Alex Gould in the Congressman’s office at (716) 634-2324 for more information on obtaining one.

May 11
4 o'clock
Batavia City Hall, Board Room
1 Batavia City Centre
Batavia, NY 14020

July 24, 2014 - 1:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, Le Roy, vietnam veterans, duck derby.

Vietnam Veterans of America 2014 Le Roy Duck Derby Winners

  • Luke Yauchzee -- $500
  • Rich Nobles --  $100
  • Jeri Costantino -- $50
  • Kate Ireland – 1 Family Membership to Seneca Park Zoo
  • Ethan Houck -- Laser Autographed Picture of New York Jets # 74 Nick Mangold
  • D.J. O’Geen -- 1 Family Fun Pack to the Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • Mark Hunneyman -- 2 Cruise Passes for free admission for a family  (2 adults and up to 2 children) for the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park
  • Marley Parker -- 4 lower Reserve adult tickets to any one 2015 regular home season game, 1 autographed program for the Rochester Razorsharks
  • Fred Perrine – 2 green fee vouchers for the Silver Lake Country Club
  • Becky Beswick, Le Roy -- 2 green fee vouchers for the Silver Lake Country Club
  • Corinne Heschke – 2 tickets for any Rochester night Hawks 2015 Game
  • T. Strollo Byron – Gift bag from Peebles Store in Batavia
  • Hunter Emenck --  4 Complimentary Tickets for 4 Adults on “The Maid of the Mist"
  • Ann Liberatore -- 1 Family Pass for 2 Adults and 3 Children at the N.Y. Museum of Transportation
  • Anna Kent -- 1 Bufalo Sabres Yearbook Autographed by #65 Bryan Flynn
  • John Johnson, Le Roy -- $50 Gift Card From “Park Avenue Pub and Restaurant,” Rochester
  • Jen Heaney -- 1 Free Det Laser signed Photos of Buffalo Bills # 28 C.J. Spiller and #22 Fred Jackson
  • Rita Mehan -- Autographed Photo of James Beresford, of the Rochester Red Wings
  • Dan Robinson, Le Roy – Laser signed Photo of N.Y. Giants  # 80 Victor Cruz
  • Rick Blood, LeRoy --  $20 gift certificate to the Pok-A-Dot in Batavia
  • Alexis O’Geen -- $10 gift certificate to Applebee’s
  • Lawerence Taylor, Palmetto, Fla. -- $10 for the Last Place Duck
  • Colleen Czubinski, Batavia -- $25 for the 25th Place Duck in honor of our 25th Anniversary of the Duck Derby
June 13, 2014 - 1:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, vietnam veterans.

A man lost a magnetic car sign between Route 63 and Route 77 from the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 193. If found, please call the Genesee County Sheriff's Office at 585.343.5000.

December 15, 2012 - 10:45am

Jim Lachman likes to tell people that in 1968 he went to Vietnam to kill Vietnamese, but in 2012 he went to paint their nails.

Lachman, of Brockport, is a 2010 graduate of Genesee Community College and is currently pursuing a Bachelors in Social Work at the College at Brockport. 

A Vietnam veteran, Lachman had the opportunity to return to the battleground this past year -- not as a soldier, but as a guest. Through Brockport's Vietnam Program, he earned 15 college credits studying Vietnamese culture and completed many hours of community service in the city of Danang. He chronicled his experience in a blog called "Danang again." (There's a link at the end of the article.)

On Nov. 13, he contrasted his two experiences in Vietnam in a speech titled "A Forty-Year Journey from Vietnam to Vietnam," which was held at his alma mater, GCC. We invited him to sit down with us and share some of his insights for readers of The Batavian.

Lachman and his wife, Bernie -- who joined him for part of his stay in Vietnam -- were interviewed at Coffee Culture in Batavia last week.

What did you do in the Vietnam War?

Jim: I was part of the C-130 Squadron in the Marines. I worked on large airplanes called VMGR 152s. We were stationed in Okinawa, but we had a sub-unit in Danang. I was there for three months, then I went back to Okinawa. Then I spent three months with the flight crew as a plane mechanic, so I was in and out of Vietnam, Thailand, and up and down different airstrips. We flew cargo and troops back and forth. Most of the missions I flew were flight-refueling operations.

So you didn't see any combat, correct?

Jim: No. I was one of the lucky few who weren't exposed to any of that.

How did you get involved in Brockport's Vietnam Program?

Jim: I was in a U.S. History class at GCC in 2010, and there was a little Asian woman sitting next to me. I asked her where she was from, and she said Vietnam. We developed a friendship -- I asked questions. She told me about a study abroad program in Vietnam at Brockport, and I said "Oh, okay..."

What exactly did you do while studying abroad in Vietnam?

Jim: I probably got about 100 hours of community service while I was in Vietnam.  There was a large community service component.

Each week we spent an hour and a half in a nursing home with ladies in their 80s and 90s (there were some men, too). We helped them pick mulberries and peanuts, and they loved to have their nails trimmed and painted.

Then we did an hour and a half a week at Agent Orange group home, and we also did home visits to kids who were too sick to come to the group home.  

Bernie: We know the effects of agent orange on American soldiers, but we don't know about the effect it had on the people who live in Vietnam. It has affected three generations with birth defects, mental sickness, (etc.) 

Jim: The way I like to put it is, we put poison in their backyard and it's still there.

We also did English instruction two nights a week and delivered food and medical supplies to a leper village. Then we got 15 credit hours studying Vietnamese history, politics, culture and language.

What was the big difference between your first visit and your second?

Jim: I contributed to the death of two million Vietnamese people by being part of the war. By contrast, in 2012 I learned about the culture and the people, and I connected with them on a human level. And I fell in love with them.

A former Viet Cong chairman who now writes for "Da Nang Today" (a Danang newspaper) interviewed me for an article on a "former invader who was coming back to do good." He asked me questions, and he was very curious. But if we had met 40 years ago, someone would have been taken prisoner.

Today, Vietnam is a wonderful vacation spot. You see people there from China, Australia, Russia...They have wonderful and very cheap accommodations, beautiful beaches...and the Vietnamese people don't like the sun, so we'd have the beach almost to ourselves (during the day).

Bernie: I came to visit Jim for a month. It was a two thousand dollar round trip by airplane, and that was the most money I spent the whole time.

I shopped at the tailor stores, which are family owned businesses. The Vietnamese are known through much of the world for their tailor-made clothes.

As a woman in Danang, I could walk safely at night. I couldn't do that in Batavia.  All the stores (in Danang) are street-level. (Store owners) got to know me, and I knew that if anyone ever tried to molest me in the street, they'd be all over them.

I went into a bookstore once, and no one there knew English. So they went two stores down and found someone who did. That's what they want -- they want to communicate.

And they revere the elderly. One time we went into a coffee shop, and one of the first questions they asked before seating us was, "How old are you?" Because we're over 40, we were always in the most honored spot.

Jim: And (accepting that courtesy) was part of my being a guest, part of accepting the culture as it was. One of the things the Vietnam Program page on the Brockport Web site says is that as students, we are guests of the Vietnamese government. So that's how I conducted myself. The last thing I wanted was to be an "ugly American."

At every other place I had served (in the Marines), I had the opportunity to connect with the people and the culture. Going back to Vietnam, it was like I had a second chance, you know?

Even if I didn't like an experience, I would try to write about it in a positive way on my blog. At the exit dinner (held at the end of the program), one of the chairmen said, "We've been enjoying your blog" -- "we" meaning the Communist Party.  When I told my son about that, he said: "Well, did you think they wouldn't?"  Honestly, I never thought about it -- I just wrote from the heart.

What would you want people today to know about the Vietnam War?

The man who taught my politics class was in charge of the Liberation Front (the enemy) in Danang back in '68. He said Vietnam has a "market economy with a socialist orientation." It seems to me that their government works as well for them as ours does for us. I often wonder what would have happened if the U.S. had allowed the Vietnamese to have their elections the way they had planned. When the U.S. got involved, it went from 1956-1975 until (the Vietnamese) could unify their country.

Bernie: People our age will ask us, "Did you go to North Vietnam or South Vietnam?" It's just Vietnam now.

Jim: I can think of two men in history who wanted to preserve national union: Abraham Lincoln and Ho Chi Minh. They both wanted the same thing.

After doing some research, I found out that what I was taught about Communism and Ho Chi Minh growing up might not have been the truth.

So then you would say that the Vietnam War was not worth it in the end?

Jim: In humanistic terms, I would have to say no. It wasn't worth all that death.

What I was told when I went over was that I was being sent to stop Communism.  After I came home, I discovered the real reason: The U.S. military was serving as the hired guns of capitalism. The reason (for the war) was that the capitalists in charge of the U.S. government wanted to control all trade in and out of Southeast Asia.

We would have been better off staying out of the whole thing and allowing the Vietnamese to have their elections and be the government they were going to be. It would have saved a lot of lives.

As an American military man in Vietnam, how were you treated when you returned home?

Jim: When I came back in July of 1969, I had heard the stories. So when I came into Travis Air Force Base in California, I put on civilian clothes in the bathroom. I made the choice not to call any attention to myself. Even today, I choose not to wear (my Marines hat), because I just got used to that.

Bernie: When I was a sergeant instructor in the Reserves (in the 1970s and 1980s), we were taught not to wear our uniforms when travelling on a civilian conveyance. Then when the Vietnam veterans insisted that the Desert Storm soldiers be honored, the culture changed. It went from "we're against the war" to "we support our troops."

What led you to speak about your experience at GCC on Nov. 13?

Jim: I was there because of Josephine Kerney, who was my sociology professor (at GCC). She does a lot of study abroad stuff, so in association with the Vietnam Program I'd run into her at fairs and such. I talked about the contrast between my first trip to Vietnam and my second, and it fascinated her. She wondered if I would come in and talk to her class about it, and that led to it being a larger event where anyone could come.

Do you have any thoughts on the current war in Afghanistan?

What I learned from my Vietnam experience was that I can't trust the government. I wonder what my government is lying to me about now. Is (the war in Afghanistan) about money? Is it about pharmaceutical interest in what we can extract from the poppy that grows there?

I've heard it said that "Afghanistan is where empires go to die." Alexander the Great tried (to invade), the Russians tried it, and now it's us.

A Kodak retiree, Lachman returned to school in 2008 out of a desire to become a counselor for military veterans. Currently in his junior year at Brockport, he plans to go on for a master's degree so that he can counsel veterans "who saw things that no one should have to see."

For more information on his experience, go to www.danangagain.blogspot.com.

November 30, 2011 - 4:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in vietnam veterans, stephen hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) is encouraging family and friends of Vietnam veterans to submit photos of their loved ones to The Education Center, which is being constructed in Washington, D.C.

The facility will feature photos of veterans whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, attaching a face and story to the names of the courageous heroes that make up the wall.

“We must all do our part to tell the tale of each and every brave soul whose name is featured on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall so that future generations can honor and appreciate their sacrifice,” Hawley said.

“The Education Center being built in Washington will serve as both an informational and somber tribute to our Vietnam veterans and their place as heroes in American history. With so many courageous soldiers hailing from Western New York, I know our community and region will be well represented when The Education Center opens its doors.”

For more information about The Education Center, please visit http://buildthecenter.org/, or contact the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at (202) 393-0090.

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