Thousands of Korean-American veterans could get VA care under new bill
By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 22, 2020
WASHINGTON — Thousands of Korean-American veterans could be eligible for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs if a new bill introduced in the House granting them federal care is approved.
The Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue for Relief Act, introduced last week by Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., would entitle roughly 3,000 Korean American veterans, who are naturalized citizens, access to health care through the VA. So far, only naturalized foreign troops from World War I and World War II have been allowed to receive care at VA facilities, according to the department.
“Korean American Vietnam Veterans may have served under a different flag during the Vietnam War, but they served with the same duty, honor, and valor as our United States service members,” Cisneros, who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement.
Korean Americans suffered from the same injuries as American troops in the Vietnam War, including post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
However, despite becoming naturalized citizens, they are not recognized as U.S. veterans because they served in the Korean military during the war. Additionally, since South Korea considers them foreign nationals, their access to benefits in that country is limited.
“Suffering significant injuries from service, it’s unacceptable that nearly 3,000 of these patriots and United States citizens are unable to access health care from the VA,” Cisneros said.
More than 325,000 Korean soldiers served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1973, making them the largest contingent of troops sent by allies of the United States other than South Vietnam. Soldiers from Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also served in Vietnam. During the war, 4,407 Republic of Korea troops were killed and 17,606 were injured, according to Korean American Veterans of the Vietnam War, a veterans advocacy group.