Nearly one hundred Vietnam Veterans and their families attended a town hall Monday night, which focused on the impact of the chemical Agent Orange.
It was used to clear vast stretches of jungle in the war, and scientists have since linked the chemical to cancer and other health problems.
“There are just a lot of veterans, and not just them, but equally, if not more importantly, are the spouses of the veterans who don’t know what benefits that they’re eligible for,” said Don Smith, Knoxville Chapter President of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Smith said there is an extra emphasis on veterans' families, specifically spouses, because eligibility for Agent Orange-related benefits keep changing.
"If their husband as an example passed away from a heart attack and didn't know about it, and they filed now, it's almost $1,300 a month in tax-free compensation plus education benefits plus healthcare benefits," he said. "So it's a lot. It’s a huge life-changer for a lot of people."
Christine and Harold Gladwin attended their first meeting after learning Harold was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
In 1965, he served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, which was a time the government acknowledges U.S. troops were exposed to Agent Orange.
“It’s been very difficult because he went from a healthy man… he fell and broke his hip and then all of this set in," Christine Gladwin said. "The last four months have just changed our lives completely.”
While this new challenge came unexpectedly to their family, Gladwin said the Agent Orange Town Hall offered some hope.
“They had so much information," she said. "They really answered a lot of questions we didn’t know how to ask or you know.”
Many of the questions included what illnesses or ailments qualify for veterans and their families to apply for benefits.
Smith said the newest presumptive illnesses are bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson's-like symptoms.
"Parkinson’s Disease was added back in 2010, but a lot of veterans suffer from those symptoms but don’t have full diagnosis," he said. "This would allow those veterans who have those Parkinson’s-like symptoms to also get benefits.”
Smith encourages veterans and their families to get in touch with a veteran service officer at least once a year to keep up with changing eligibility.