In 1978, a small band of veterans in lower Fairfield County sounded the call for the U.S. government to come to their aid as they confronted the effects of Agent Orange, an herbicide the military used to clear vegetation on Vietnamese battlefields.
One of the veterans, Stamford resident Paul Reutershan, died that same year of cancer, which he blamed on Agent Orange. Six years later, his lawsuit against the government and the makers of Agent Orange led in a class-action that was settled for $240 million. This handful of veterans came to define the issue of Agent Orange. The group, originally named Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims, eventually changed its name to the National Veterans Services Fund to reflect its expanded duties. In some ways, the mission was the same: To help veterans the government had failed to serve. When the Veterans Administration can't provide funding, the NVSF pays for wheelchairs and mortgage and utility payments.