Agent Orange report boosts compensation claims made by vets who served on Guam

US Marine Corps retiree Tom Devlin says among the key issues veterans are facing on Guam is the inadequate funding for the local veteran affairs office and the need to have a united voice to speak out in Washington and locally. (PNC file photo)

A research report released by two veteran advocacy groups has given a boost to compensation claims made by Vietnam-era vets who served on Guam.

The report, released Friday, concludes that the weight of the evidence strongly shows that veterans who served on Guam between 1962 to 1975 were exposed to herbicides containing dioxin.

The report says what many have long believed, but the federal government has not yet officially acknowledged.

It is, at the very least, “as likely as not” that veterans who served in Guam from 1962 to 1975 were exposed to Agent Orange and other dioxin-containing herbicides.

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Tom Devlin, a Vietnam vet and a member of the Order of the Purple Heart, said: “Basically, we already knew it. I think a lot of the Vietnam veterans, in particular, knew this was happening and agree with the report. But what is the federal government going to do?”

The so-called white paper was compiled by the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Jerome Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. The authors believe that the veterans who served on Guam and may have been exposed are entitled to compensation for any diseases associated with exposure to dioxin and the other herbicides.

Fred Bordallo, the director of the Guam Veterans Affairs Office, said: “It supports their claims. So, it gives a little bit more leverage for the disability claims to be looked at.”

“But what is the federal government going to do?” Devlin asked. “Are they going to give them any money, any type of compensation? Or are they going to wait until most of the Vietnam veterans die off and then 10 years down the road they’ll say OK we’re going to give the rest some compensation. But you won’t have many of us left.”

Devlin added: “My concern is on Guam. What about the civilians?

Guam Attorney Mike Phillips is already contemplating legal action over the impact on Guam’s civilian community.

“The United States is denying the use of Agent Orange and any chemicals that were in that category,” Phillips said.

The Veterans Legal Services white paper challenges the findings of a 2018 Government Accountability Office report which found that Agent Orange exposure could not be conclusively proved or disproved because of incomplete, lost and absent records and a lack of credible soil samples.

But Phillips doesn’t buy the lost records argument.

“Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt they covered it up. It’s without any kind of legitimate excuse, it’s immoral and there really needs to be a remedy here provided,” Phillips said.