Resources and Support for Vietnam Veterans
Vietnam veterans are the largest group of living American veterans. Of the nearly 23 million living veterans who have ever served in the armed forces, Vietnam vets make up almost 34% of the total, with over 7,695,000 living veterans having served worldwide during the lengthy conflict.1
Because of their sheer numbers, Vietnam veterans have become a powerful force across the country. Many organizations exist to support and provide resources specifically for Vietnam veterans, and Vietnam vets should be aware that they may qualify for special VA benefits as a result of their service in Vietnam.
Who Is A Vietnam-Era Veteran?
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 defined a “Vietnam-Era Veteran” as anyone who met the following conditions:
- Served on active duty for a period of more than 180 days, any part of which occurred between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, and was discharged or released with other than a dishonorable discharge.
- Was discharged or released from active duty for a service connected disability if any part of such active duty was performed between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, or
- Served on active duty for more than 180 days and served in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
Under this definition, there were 8.2 million Vietnam-Era veterans, many of whom never served in the actual country of Vietnam. This definition can encompass those who served in a different theater during this time period, as well as those who served while in the United States.
Vietnam vets faced multiple unique issues that could affect veterans after their return home. Some of these include:
Agent Orange was an herbicide used to de-leaf trees and other vegetation in the jungles of Vietnam. Millions of gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed in the jungles before it was known that exposure to these chemicals could lead to long-term health issues for those who were exposed. Many diseases suffered by Vietnam veterans are presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and disability claims based on these diseases should move quickly through the disability claims process.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A large study by the VA found that 31% of men and 27% of women suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, at some point after their return from Vietnam.2 To help veterans work through lingering psychological issues from the war, Vietnam vets are eligible for the Vet Center Program. This program provides counseling and other services for veterans who need help dealing with the highly emotional strains of combat.
On any given night, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that nearly 58,000 veterans are homeless. Of these, almost half are Vietnam-Era veterans.3 While there are many reasons for homelessness, including mental illness and substance abuse, the VA and organizations like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans are working to reduce the problem of veteran homelessness.
Vietnam Veterans Organizations
Some of the largest veterans’ organizations in the country focus on serving the needs of Vietnam-Era veterans. These include:
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
- Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation
- National League of POW/MIA Families