FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- On behalf of constituent and Army veteran Eugene Clarke, state Rep. John Shaban, R-Easton/Redding/ Weston, is trying to pass legislation to aid veterans.
Clarke served with the Army in the Korea Demilitarized Zone from 1967-68. During his time of service, our military used Agent Orange to defoliate certain areas of the DMZ where Clarke was stationed. This chemical has caused serious illnesses to those who came into contact with it, including spina bifida, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, skin ailments and neuropathy, along with heart, tissue and organ issues.
Years after Clarke retired from the Army, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes which, an investigation revealed, was seemingly related to his exposure to Agent Orange.
However, many of the soldiers who served alongside him in the "Second Korean War,” Clarke is not eligible for veterans benefits. “Vietnam veterans and those who served in Korea after 1968 receive a presumption of injury if their illness relates to Agent Orange exposure, and thus receive the benefits they deserve,” Shaban said. “Because Eugene served in 1967, however, he found himself ineligible.”
In early 2014, Clarke contacted Shaban, whose office has since been helping Clarke contact his federal representatives and the relevant veterans associations to seek redress.
Recently, Shaban wrote to Veterans Affairs officials in Washington, requesting that the relevant regulatory and/or statutory time frames be expanded to include Clarke and his fellow veterans who served in the Korea DMZ in 1967.
In his letter Shaban notes that the response from some in the federal government has been lacking, but did commend Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s recent interest and effort to help Clarke.
“I am pleased that Sen. Blumenthal has come on board to help Mr. Clarke,” Shaban stated, “but we are getting radio silence from the other federal officials we have contacted. Without their support, I fear that we might not have enough momentum to make a change. We will keep at it though.”
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