The deadline for a North Idaho survey of Vietnam veterans aimed at increasing awareness about those who were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide has been extended to July 31.
Vietnam veteran and Post Falls resident Dick Phenneger, who started a nonprofit called Veterans Services Transparency, launched a regional survey last month but is extending the deadline for more responses.
Nearly 200 Vietnam vets have responded to Phenneger and his volunteers, 82 have said they plan to fill out the survey and more than 50 have sent in their surveys or were interviewed.
Phenneger said his focus has been building trust with veterans and their families by speaking to veterans' groups.
"Some are not sure they can trust," said Phenneger, adding that past experiences have influenced some about sharing information. "As I speak to the organizations, however, I am gaining support and building trust.
"It is going to take time and energy. So be it. I will continue as long as is possible to get enough participants to make a difference."
Information veterans provide for the survey, will not be attached to any names, he said.
Phenneger has a background as a business analyst and served as an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War. While Phenneger said he doesn't believe he was exposed to Agent Orange, he wants to help ensure those who were get the benefits they deserve.
After the war, Agent Orange was discovered to be contaminated with a toxic dioxin compound that resulted in deaths, illnesses and birth defects. The herbicide was intended to defoliate forest, depriving guerrillas of cover.
Phenneger said all Vietnam veterans in the region - regardless of whether they believe they were exposed to the herbicide during combat or not - are encouraged to participate. Information from the survey could lead to an expansion of the cancer and disease list tied to Agent Orange that is recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs. There is no cost to participate in the survey.
Veterans are encouraged to contact Phenneger or a survey volunteer at email@example.com or 457-VET2 (8382) before July 31 with questions or to participate. Among the information that is being sought is confirmation of being a Vietnam veteran, their unit number and approximate dates in Vietnam.
Forms can be mailed or emailed to veterans or they can be filled out during live interviews at various area locations. More information on the nonprofit is at www.VSTnow.org.
Phenneger's project is being assisted by Columbia University Scientist Jeanne Stellman.
Results will be submitted to Idaho's congressional members and others. Phenneger said he hopes the survey will serve as a model for other regions of the country to follow.
Lines are open
n Vietnam veterans interested in participating in a survey performed by the local nonprofit Veterans Service Transparency or for more information, call 457-VET2 (8382) or email firstname.lastname@example.org before July 31. Additional information is at www.VSTnow.org.