WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to expedite the expansion of treatments for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Congressmen Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act, the companion bill in the House, this week.
"Vietnam veterans exposed to toxic Agent Orange chemicals should have access to the care and benefits they earned," said Senator Brown. "VA should act quickly when presented scientific documentation related to an illness linked to toxic exposure. Our veterans have waited long enough for action."
"I have veterans in my home state of Nevada right now who are suffering from diseases, such as bladder cancer, that the National Academies of Medicine has associated with Agent Orange," said Senator Heller. "For example, Richard from Reno, Nevada, served in 1968 in the Korean DMZ where Agent Orange was used, and today he has bladder cancer. He deserves compensation for his exposure, and the VA’s failure to act on the NAM reports should not stand in the way. This legislation holds the VA accountable by requiring the agency to make a final determination, and I’m proud to join Sen. Brown and our colleagues in the House of Representatives to right this wrong."
"When a veteran’s medical condition is determined to be linked to their exposure to Agent Orange, they should not have their benefits tied up in bureaucratic red tape," said Congressman Crist. "I urge Congress to take swift action on this bipartisan, bicameral bill to help our Vietnam veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve that for too many have been delayed or denied."
"When it comes to taking care of our veterans, we owe it to them to be proactive rather than reactive," said Congressman Mullin. "The Agent Orange Act of 1991 required the Secretary of the VA recommend new illnesses associated with Agent Orange until the requirement lapsed in 2015. The Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act simply puts back in place the same recommendation requirements that were in place for 25 years. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation alongside Congressman Crist and Senators Heller and Brown so that our Vietnam veterans continue to receive the highest level of care we can provide."
The legislation has been cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).
"It is unacceptable that VA has failed to act on the National Academy of Medicine report linking bladder cancer and other conditions to Agent Orange exposure. VA’s inaction has denied thousands of veterans the benefits they deserve and has forced many of them to accumulate debt to cover the cost of health care for conditions which have been scientifically proven to be associated with their exposure to Agent Orange. The VFW thanks Congressman Crist for his leadership on this issue and is proud to support H.R. 6941, which will correct this injustice," said VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes.
This legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to act within 60 days of receiving a National Academy of Sciences report linking illnesses to Agent Orange and herbicide exposure. Once illnesses are added to the presumptive conditions list, veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffering from the designated conditions receive benefits. Under the current VA process, expanding Agent Orange-related coverage had been delayed since the law expired in 2015, resulting in veterans being denied benefits.