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THE VETERAN

Page 5
Download PDF of this full issue: v15n1.pdf (9.3 MB)

<< 4. Fraggin'6. An Apology: Why We Are Late >>

Maude DeVictor: Fired for Helping Agent Orange Victims

By VVAW

[Printer-Friendly Version]

No single individual is more responsible for exposing the dangers of Agent Orange to Vietnam veterans than Maude DeVictor. As her reward for serving veterans and their families, Maude was fired by the Veterans Administration.

"I wasn't in Vietnam, although I'm a veteran," Maude said, "But I felt as though I'v been there because I've interviewed so many fellow, so many wives, so many families."

Maude first ran into Agent Orange (or, as she puts it, "Agent Orange ran into me.") in June of 1977. At that time Maude was a VA counselor assigned to assist veterans filling for service-connected disabilities. She received a phone call from Mrs Ethel Owens, the distraught wife of a Vietnam veteran dying from cancer. Her husband, Charlie, had told her he thought it was connected to his work with the defoliant Agent Orange while serving with the Air Force in Vietnam.

When Owens died his wife called Maude to file for survivor's benefits. Not surprisingly, the VA turned her down although she did appeal.

In the process of trying to help Owens' window, Maude called and wrote to any and everyone she could think of to gather information about chemicals used in Southeast Asia.

The Air Force finally admitted the use of chemical defoliants in Vietnam. She had the proof and Mrs Owens ended up getting survivor's benefits as a result of the death of her husband.

Maude did not give up with one victory but continued to talk to Vietnam vets, compile information and challenge the VA position that there was no real proof of a connection between Agent Orange and life-threatening health problems.

In early 1978, CBS-TV aired the documentary "Agent Orange: Vietnam's Deadly Fog," a program which later won an Emmy. The program showed the link between Agent Orange and cancer, birth defects and a host of other health problems. Maude helped to provide the information on which the program was based.

Rather than commend Maude for her diligence in helping Vietnam vets, the VA went after her. She was transferred from one position to another. "I've had many battles about Agent Orange inside the VA hierarchy. It's changed my life completely. Just to show you—the fellows who are dying call me—but the VA suggested I get an unlisted number so I wouldn't be bothered with there numerous calls" Maude said in an interview with THE VETERAN at that time. VA harassment continued, and included a reduction in her grade by VA management.

Maude had to file grievances with the union, the merit systems protection board and the offices of Equal Employment Opportunity to protect her job.

In September of 1983 the VA finally moved, firing her for (among other things) being AWOL from her assignment. This is the reward for a VA worker with 20 years of service, and a conscience. Maude has continued to fight by her side, holding picket lines at the VA publicize her case.

Vietnam veterans owe Maude! She was there first before many of us had even heard about Agent Orange. She put her job and career on the line, refusing to be a paper shuffling VA bureaucrat.

A lot of veterans groups and individuals are running around claiming to have started the ball rolling about Agent Orange, but Maude is the one, and Vietnam vets must now support her.

VVAW will be holding picket lines and demonstrations at the Chicago VA offices in the future for Maude, and we hope that others will be there too.


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