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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2005

 

Help For Child Victims Of Agent Orange

I am writing to seek help in advocating better treatment for children with Agent Orange related Spina Bifida. In total, nation wide, the US. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officially recognizes the existence of fewer than 1100 such children of Vietnam veterans as "Agent Orange Children."
I am the stepfather of such an Agent Orange child. Her name is Honey Sue Newby. My wife is Honey Sue's natural biological mother. My wife and I are co- legal guardians and care givers for this beautiful 34 year old profoundly handicapped daughter. Her biological father was exposed to Agent Orange during three combat tours as a Marine Rifleman in Vietnam.
Honey Sue was born at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital on June 2nd 1971. Her birth defects included but were not limited to spina bifida, cerebral palsy, paralyzed palate, clubbed feet, urinary and fecal incontinence, severe speech impediment, limited vision, and mild mental retardation. She is totally and permanently disabled from birth. She is not mentally competent and requires round the clock attendance and supervision. In spite of all these problems she is beautiful and is the joy of our lives. The generosity of the Shiners organization has insured she can walk and speak and alleviated many of her physical problems.
The VA has officially recognized Honey Sue as an Agent Orange Spina Bifida Child. She is one of FEWER THAN 200 Agent Orange Children rated at LEVEL III of disability by the VA. This is the highest level of disability at which an Agent Orange Child may be rated. And would correspond to a service connected disability rating of 100% for a disabled military veteran. She receives a stipend of approximately $1400 per month from the VA under the VA Spina Bifida program to off set her living and medical expenses. For this we are very grateful.
The problem for us, and we suspect for other care givers for LEVEL III Spina Bifida Children, is health care and personal attendance. Just like many 100% Service Connected disabled military veterans (a group whose situation most nearly matches her own) Honey Sue is totally disabled and permanently in need of medical care and personal care and attendance.
Unlike the 100% Service Connected disabled military veteran she receives only very limited medical care from the VA. And no personal attendance care. The bulk of her medical care is through Medicaid. Or public welfare. While all of her personal attendance care is from her mother and I.
Both her disability and her need of care and attendance are clearly connected to the sacrifice of military service. Not her own military service. But that of her biological father. Who was exposed to the effects of Agent Orange during three combat tours in Vietnam prior to Honey Sue's conception.
I see two major differences between the situation of a 100% Service Connected disabled military veteran and a totally and permanently disabled LEVEL III Agent Orange Child like our daughter. First the disabled military veteran had some degree of choice in exposing himself to disabling military service. Our daughter had no choice at all. Secondly the 100% disabled military veteran receives the compensation of full medical care and personal attendance for his military Service Connected disabilities. The LEVEL III disabled Agent Orange Child receives little in the way of medical care from the VA. And nothing in the way of personal attendance care from them.
My wife and I are seeking others who will join us in advocating for the US Congress to provide full medical care and personal attendance for the fewer that 200 LEVEL III Agent Orange Children. My wife has been at Honey Sue's side to care for her almost around the clock since her birth. I joined her in this effort when we married in 1992. What will happen to Honey Sue when we pass away? Or become too old to care for her? One might also ask this about the fewer than 200 other LEVEL III Agent Orange children like her.
If you are a member of the US Congress or in a position to influence a member of that body please speak up for Honey Sue and the others like her. If you are a Veteran or simply a concerned citizen please pass this letter along and call your Congressman. It is time to make amends to these A/O children.
Ron and Suzanne Nesler
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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