The Vietnam Veterans of America held their monthly meeting on Sunday and discussed the latest events and issues surrounding the veteran community.
“Most people don’t know about it,” said president of Chapter 355, Nick Callas, about the veteran group that currently holds over 70,000 members.
Chapter 355 includes veterans from Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, and the San Fernando and Antelope valleys.
Although the group started out as a support for Vietnam veterans specifically, they have now expanded to help newer veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
During the meeting, veterans were reminded to seek out their Agent Orange benefits, a program made available to veterans who were exposed to tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam.
“I’d say 80 percent of the veterans know their benefits,” said Callas. “But it took me 25 years of being out of the military all together before I knew there was VA benefits.”
“Nobody tells you on an active duty level. When you sign out, you sign out and they whisk you away.” he said.
Using his benefits to their full potential is Second Vice President of Chapter 355, Bruce Millhench, 68. He has undergone nine surgeries so far due to illnesses caused by Agent Orange.
“We didn’t know about [Agent Orange] until the mid to late 70’s. It was causing people being sick.” said Millhench.
Millhench claimed that “the government tried to deny it for a long time,” but that he was eventually able to get his benefits and is now “one hundred percent disability dependent.”
Going forward, the Vietnam Veterans of America aim to grow their awareness and help as many veterans as they can.
The Vietnam Veterans of America meet the third Sunday of every month.