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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to support and continue to push for a key provision in the defense bill to expand the list of medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Their provision would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of conditions to include Parkinsonism, Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism. Brown vowed to continue fighting to get a fourth condition, Hypertension, added in the future.

Currently, VA provides presumptions for fourteen health outcomes for which the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine has found a sufficient or limited suggestive association between herbicide exposure and a particular medical condition. However, VA has yet to add the four aforementioned conditions, even though they meet that criteria, making it difficult for veterans to receive care and benefits for these illnesses.

Brown has been fighting to help veterans exposed to Agent Orange in the Senate:

    - In 2018, Brown introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which would ensure these veterans are able to receive the healthcare benefits they need and have earned after their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

     - In 2019, at Brown’s request, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on toxic exposure. Brown pressed government officials to act on the National Academies report regarding Agent Orange related diseases.

    - In October of last year, Brown joined his Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues and veterans service organizations (VSOs) to condemn the Trump Administration, following released documents that revealed the White House blocked efforts by VA to expand the list of presumptive health outcomes for Vietnam veterans suffering from service-connected exposure to Agent Orange.

     - In December of last year, Brown was able to secure language in the year-end spending bill to require VA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue a report within 30 days outlining any delays in making a determination on adding conditions to the list of service-connected presumptive illnesses.

Brown has been leading his colleagues in urging the President to take action on behalf of thousands of Vietnam veterans across the country living with chronic health conditions, by expanding the VA’s list of medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Today he vowed to continue fighting to add hypertension to the list. Hypertension is now recognized by the National Academies as having sufficient association, or an even stronger link, with herbicide exposure. A presumption of exposure means that if a veteran served in a specific area during a defined time frame, VA will presume that they were exposed to certain harmful chemicals or environmental hazards. This designation is critical to getting veterans the health care they need.

A copy of Brown’s floor remarks from today are below: 

Mr./Madame President, 

Thank you to my colleague Senator Tester for all of his work over the years on behalf of tens of thousands of Vietnam Veterans who still suffer today because of exposure to Agent Orange. 

Toxic exposure is something we both have worked together on for a long time, and with the help of all of you, we will finally expand the list of chronic health conditions associated with Agent Orange. 

The National Academy of Sciences has recognized that Hypothyroidism, bladder cancer, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension all have what’s known as “suggestive or sufficient evidence” associated with Agent Orange. 

Historically, the VA has added illnesses in both of those categories to the list of presumptive medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. 

That designation is critical to getting these veterans the health care they need, and they earned serving all of us. 

Initially our amendment included all four illnesses, but we had to compromise and remove hypertension. 

We will continue the fight, to get benefits for ALL of the illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure. 

Time is running out for these veterans. 

We did this to them. The American government decided to spray Agent Orange. We knew it was harmful then, and we definitely know it is harmful now. 

If you were exposed to poison while serving our country, you deserve the benefits you earned, period. No exceptions. 

As my friend and colleague from Montana has said, time and time again – this is a cost of war. It is only right that we’re discussing this now, as we debate the National Defense Authorization Act.

I thank my colleagues for approving this amendment to fix this for the veterans we serve. 

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