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Help Vietnam vets

If Vietnam-era veterans have sometimes felt as though they were forgotten citizens, that is increasingly no longer the case. The White House and Congress are now taking firm steps to provide special job-training, health-related, and educational services to thousands of young men and women who served their nation's military establishment during the Vietnam period. A number of states are also undertaking special programs.

In most situations, the programs add up to taxpayer dollars well spent.

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Among steps recently taken or now under way to help Vietnam-era veterans:

* The Reagan administration has announced that it will propose a 15 percent increase in education assistance under the GI Bill- as well as vocational rehabilitation benefits - for Vietnam-era veterans. The increases would be effective next January. The proposal makes sense. Benefits under the GI bill were last increased several years ago, in 1981.

* The House, recently, by unanimous voice vote, provided temporary compensation to veterans having health problems related to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, which was widely used in Vietnam. The Senate should pass a similar measure.

* The administration is now applying provisions under an emergency jobs training act previously approved by Congress and specifically designed to help Vietnam veterans. Some 20,000 veterans are expected to receive assistance under the program.

* Some states are setting up special counseling and job-placement programs. In Massachusetts, for example, Vietnam veterans will be given special consideration for state jobs under an executive order signed by Gov. Michael Dukakis late last year.

The programs aiding Vietnam-era veterans should not be considered discriminatory, in the sense of providing unwarranted benefits not made available to other members of the population. Rather, they represent a fair expression of gratitude to those Americans who so ably served their nation during a particularly difficult period.

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