Faleomavaega speaks for first time about his illness
Complications from exposure to ‘Agent Orange’ while serving in the Vietnam war, has been cited by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni as the reason for the illness which resulted in his being medivaced to Hawai’i late last year, followed by months of rehabilitation on the mainland.
Faleomavaega arrived in the territory last October to attend an education conference but instead was admitted to LBJ Medical Center for observation. A few days later he was medivaced to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu for further treatment, followed by rehab, at the time, and until now — the Congressman’s office didn’t provide specifics of his illness.
Faleomavaega, a Vietnam war veteran, is seeking re-election and there have been many questions surrounding his illness. His office has maintained the Congressman's right to privacy, although he is a public figure.
In a four-minute ‘thank-you message’ to the people of American Samoa, to be aired soon on local radio stations as an election advertisement, Faleomavaega said, that “because of complications due to Agent Orange exposure during my service in Vietnam, I was airlifted to Hawai’i where I was not expected to live.”
He thanked everyone for their prayers and “I am back”, according to an audio of the message the Congressman’s office provided early yesterday morning.
Faleomavaega called on Vietnam veterans to visit the VA clinic, saying that he was not aware of the many side effects caused by Agent Orange exposure “but now that I know, I urge you to seek treatment so that you may live a long and healthy life.”
“Agent Orange is the silent killer of Vietnam veterans,” he said and explained that from 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed more than 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam, exposing millions of civilians and soldiers to dioxin, a toxic contaminant known to be one of the deadliest chemicals made by man.
“I was exposed during my service in Nha Trang. Like hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans, I now suffer from the side effects of Agent Orange, including heart and kidney disease, which almost cost me my life. But with proper diagnosis and dialysis treatments, my life has been spared,” he said.
According to the Congressman, anyone who served on active duty in Vietnam from Jan. 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975, may qualify for Presumptive Service-Connected Agent Orange Disability Compensation. He encouraged all Vietnam veterans living in American Samoa and elsewhere, to get checked out now.
“To any who suffer due to pain, disability or trials… Your service continues to make a difference beyond measure,” he said.
Faleomavaega went on to defend all public servant's right to privacy during their time of illness, saying that several other members of Congress and Congressional staff also undergo dialysis due to their own struggles and “I respect their right to privacy”.
“Although public servants, they, too, are protected by HIPAA laws, and it is up to them to decide how much of their life to make public,” he said referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which is the federal protection act for the privacy of personal health information.
“I have chosen to come before you and say what I have said because, in 2004, I lost a brother who also served in Vietnam,” he said, but didn’t identify his brother by name. “While I do not know why God has given me a second chance, I want to do my part to make sure other veterans also get a second chance.”
More details can be found on Agent Orange compensation on: www.va.gov/benefits.