Vet’s family fights for VA help, says illness linked to Agent Orange

Vet’s family fights for VA help, saying his illness linked to Agent Orange exposure

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three years after he graduated from Castle High School, Wallace Soeda joined the Air Force to fight in the Vietnam War.

"He served his country and he was very proud of it," his wife, Bianca, said.

Soeda was a staff sergeant in charge of supplies.

“He was at two bases in Thailand that were known and acknowledged to have had herbicides and defoliants used to clear the vegetation in those areas,” said his son, Mark.

Soeda’s family said he was exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals.

"There are scores of Thailand veterans all around the nation, in the world, that are affected and have symptoms and diseases related to herbicide exposure. It's not a coincidence," his son, Ryan, said.

Two years ago, Soeda was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. It’s an uncommon brain disorder that affects movement and thinking.

Research suggests it's linked to Agent Orange and other herbicides that were used during the war.

Soeda needs round-the-clock care.

"It's very sad and I'm very hurt that he's slipping away in front of my eyes little by little," Maria said.

The VA denied Soeda's claim for compensation. Many other Vietnam veterans are in the same situation.

Mark Soeda said it’s unfair that those who served in Thailand are now being ignored.

"Unless your boots were on the ground in Vietnam or on the perimeter of these Thai air bases you're really fighting an uphill battle," he said.

The Soeda family joined a social media campaign called Operation Orange Envelope.

Through letters they're asking Hawaii's congressional delegation to support bills that recognize Agent Orange exposure for troops who were stationed in Thailand.

“It’s been over 50 years and my dad and Thailand veterans all over have been denied these long overdue disability benefits,” Ryan Soeda said.

The family appealed the VA's denial and have a court date in January.

They said until his illness Wallace Soeda was a healthy man, but that man is disappearing.

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